The word jihad has been “corrupted by terrorists” and the term “love jihad” has been “incorrectly interpreted” to allude to inter-religious marriages, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, Chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), said here on Tuesday.
In an interview to The Hindu , Ms. Kumaramangalam said: “I don’t approve of this term [love jihad], which was not coined by the BJP and the RSS but used to interpret an occurrence. In the increasing urban milieu, a lot of inter-religious marriages are happening. Society is protesting against what is new, what it is not comfortable with. There is a social outrage against what is against the norm.”
Referring to “love jihad” as a social problem, she said: “The word jihad itself does not mean what it is being used for.” She traced a connection between the issue and social practices that had emerged as a consequence of the skewed sex ratio in the country.
“There are too many gender problems that are clashing, but looked at from a narrow prism. The media too play an unreasonable part. There are a little over 800 women for 1,000 men. Extrapolate that to the country’s population. There are just not enough women, which is why we have cases of one woman being married off to more than one man and bride-buying. Such instances have been reported from Punjab, Haryana and even northern Uttar Pradesh and they cut across castes and religions,” she said.
‘Too many biases’
Critical of the khap panchayats and their diktats on marriages, Ms. Kumaramangalam said there was an urgent need for social reform. “There is social condoning of khaps. Even if the NCW were to protect a couple seeking help, they would still be on the run for the rest of their lives because society is not ready to change its mindset. There are too many biases against women in the form of segregation, callousness and marginalisation. Women are not given their due.”
The NCW chief, who has been a national secretary of the BJP and has contested the Lok Sabha election twice, is hopeful that the Women’s Reservation Bill would be tabled in the winter session of Parliament.
She is pushing for more powers to the NCW. “As on date, the NCW does not have enough powers to enforce what it recommends. There is also a need to look at violence against women as more than rape and beating at home; malnutrition, lewd SMSs, cyber crimes, deprivation, no sanitation facilities in schools, along highways, these are all examples of violence too,” she said.
On her agenda is women’s empowerment, gender sensitisation for both sexes and proper utilisation of the Nirbhaya Fund. “There is an urgent need to provide short-term relief as well. There is no immediate redress mechanism, the NCW needs more punitive powers to offer relief to those who come here. Gender sensitisation is as necessary for women as it is for men,” she said.