Amid a spate of crimes against women and the state government’s move to enact the Shakti Act, Rupali Chakankar, the newly-appointed chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women, who also heads the state NCP’s women wing, elaborates on her priorities.
Q. What are your priorities as the government has filled up the post after nearly 20 months?
Soon after the formation of the MVA government, the pandemic struck, so our priority was on healthcare. Therefore, it cannot be said it is late. Now that the commission has a full-time chairperson, it will be my endeavour to fill the gap of two years in my next term. My main agenda will be to strictly and effectively implement the provisions of the Constitution of India concerning women. I am prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure effective enforcement of the existing laws for women safety and empowerment.
Q. Maharashtra has been hogging news due to a spate of rape cases. How can this be curbed?
When a woman is raped, she is a victim of a man’s perverted mentality. My personal opinion is that if this mentality changes or ends, such cases can come down. We must all work together on this.
Q. Despite the state government talking about the enactment of the Shakti Act, there seems to be slow progress. Do you feel another Act in addition to the existing laws will help control crimes against women and children? When will the Act be enacted?
The Maharashtra government is urging for the implementation of the Shakti Act as soon as possible and state home minister Dilip Walse Patil has said the bill will be introduced in the legislature in the coming session.
As I have said, if men change their perverted mindset, the rate of violence against women will definitely decrease, but it can also happen more effectively if men have the fear of law.
Q. Maharashtra has been the leader in bringing in women empowerment policy but status of women is miserable. What are your views on this?
You also know that today Maharashtra is economically, socially and politically the most advanced state. It was the first state in the country to implement a women’s policy and we are seeing good results in all areas today, so I don’t think that the status of women is miserable.
Q. The conviction rate is not remarkable in the state; how should this be improved?
I will write a letter to all the judges in the state to ensure that these offences are prosecuted in fast-track courts and the culprits are punished as soon as possible. At the same time, my insistence that at least two of the ten old pending cases be tried in a fast-track court will play a role.
Q. Is the time ripe for 50 per cent reservation for women in assembly and parliament elections?
Yes, of course. With 50 per cent reservation in local bodies, women have gained a prominent place in political life today. And if the same reservation is applied in Parliament and the Legislature, I as a woman will definitely be happy.
Q. Priyanka Gandhi has announced that the Congress party will reserve 40 per cent seats for women. What is your take?
Even though there is no legal reservation for women in the Legislative Assembly today, I am certainly proud that Priyanka Gandhi took this step to honour women.