Women and children in Maharashtra will now have the freedom to use any surname of their choice, the government has said in the draft of the State’s women’s policy released here on Friday.
In another first, the draft also includes policy changes for the treatment of transgenders.
The government has sought suggestions and recommendations from the citizens for the next two months, after which it will be presented to the Cabinet, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced. “We have suggested changes that will enable women to become financially and socially independent,” Mr. Chavan said.
Political interest in the women’s policy has been renewed after 12 years. The first women’s policy of the State was introduced in 1994 and amended in 2001.
“We will ensure that the policy is passed by the State Cabinet within the next six months,” Women and Child Development Minister Varsha Gaikwad said.
The draft states that the government will issue a directive to all the departments asking to “respect the woman’s choice to use any name she wants.” Women will have the right to complain to the district collectors if they encounter a failure to implement the rule. Apart from this, the draft also seeks to address name issues related to single women.
“Because of the patriarchal society, divorced and single women have to face trouble as their name does not match with their children.” Recognising that this causes mental agony as well as loss of property and rights, the government has stated that the children of single women will be exempt from providing documents with matching surnames.
Maharashtra will also use 10 per cent of the State and Central funds for the “women-focused gender budget,” the draft states. Reiterating that it was important to bring about development among transgenders, the State has sought to ensure health, education, voting and election rights for the ‘third gender.’ It has also recommended legalising marriage between transgenders and their rights to have and adopt children.
The State also announced a new toll-free number — 1091 for all the districts which women can call and report any kind of assault and harassment.
However, in spite of the seemingly big steps, the government has failed to appoint a chairperson for the State Women’s Commission. Amid rumours that the selection was caught in a squabble between the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress, NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said.