TAMIL NADU

Women still denied equal right to propertry

COIMBATORE, AUG. 1. From facing violence at home for not bringing in enough dowry, many women are now seeing their siblings turn against them. "All because they seek coparcenary (equal right to ancestral property) rights," according to Nirmala Sitharaman, member, National Commission for Women (NCW).

Such women also find it a problem to approach the court. "They cannot go to court leaving behind their families and wage a war for their rights. And, when they are to find witnesses, the problem gets aggravated."

Ms. Sitharaman was here for a public hearing of the grievances of the families of goldsmiths, who are struggling hard to eke out a living in the face of the popularity of machine-made jewellery. "Goldsmiths are involved in tradition-based work. We cannot afford to let that art die. The Government must put in place a support system for them till the market for hand-crafted jewellery picks up," she says.

Counter-complaints

The practice of filing counter-complaints, she says, is rampant in Tamil Nadu. "The nature of these complaints is shocking. In another public hearing, a frail woman who did not look capable of injuring anyone had been charged with pushing someone and causing bodily harm. There must be some rationale behind filing complaints."

Sexual harassment

On the sexual harassment in workplaces, the NCW member says they receive a lot of complaints these days, probably "due to more awareness." Also, there is a change in the attitude of men towards women who complain, she says. "They actually support these women because they don't want a couple of bad people to spoil the name of all menfolk."

To protect women working in the unorganised sector, the NCW is now preparing a bill, expanding the profile of workplace, to include that sector. "The Law Commission has been asked to table it in the next session," she adds.

On checking child labour, she says the Regulation Act proved a major impediment as the minimum age limit differed across industries. "The minimum age limit must be made common."

Women need better facilities in workplaces. But, when they seek it, will it not result in employers shying away from recruiting women? "Yes. The knee-jerk reaction is to stop employing women. But, they cannot do it forever. We constitute 50 per cent of the population. How long can they keep us away?" the NCW member asks.

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