Thousands of Indian women massed in the streets of New Delhi on August 2 to demand more effective government measures to reduce crimes against women and to enforce the constitutional equality of the sexes.
Background: Thousands of Indian women massed in the streets of New Delhi on August 2 to demand more effective government measures to reduce crimes against women and to enforce the constitutional equality of the sexes. The rally was organised by the Women's branch of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which presented a memorandum to Parliament outlining its demand. Although laws exist on paper to protect women against criminal offences and grant them equal employment rights, the women's organisation claim the laws are ineffective. Dowry deaths, which occur when in-laws burn to death bodies with insufficient dowries, are a common occurence particularly in the northern states. In New Delhi alone, there are 200 cases of burned bodies each year. The cases of reported rape, particularly of low-caste women, are also alarmingly high. Women make up only 28 per cent of the labour force and are usually concentrated in the low-paid jobs. The demonstration was addressed by the President of the BJP and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, who assured the women that his party would launch a crusade to secure effective government measures. The meeting was also addressed by Mrs Viaya Raje Scindia, the leader of the demonstration and President of the women's branch of the BJP. Mrs Scindia criticised Prime Minister Gandhi's 20-point programme which makes no mention of the problems of women in Indian society.