The girl child being unprotected only among the uneducated is a myth and it is true there is also discrimination towards her in areas where well-educated families live, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani said in the Rajya Sabha today.
During Question Hour, the minister said her government is working on the issue and the 'Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao' Andolan (movement) seeks to engage even with civil society groups in such areas to address this issue.
She said the consistent effort in the past four years has shown bettering of prospects for the girl child in 25 states, while admitting to what Congress member Jairam Ramesh said that in some of the most industrialised, well-read areas, one finds a dip at times.
The Congress member said some developed states had witnessed a decline in the child sex ratio of late.
"This is an issue on which you find numbers spike and dip year after year. The fallacy that the girl child is unprotected only amongst the uneducated is a fallacy and myth that we need to burst. It is true that in areas where very well educated families reside, this kind of discrimination has been witnessed. It is an issue that has been studied not only in my government, but also governments of the past," she said.
"The 'Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao' Andolan actually seeks to engage even with civil society groups in such areas to address this issue," she told the members.
In a reply to another supplementary, the minister said the government has issued an advisory to various states to ensure 33 per cent reservation for women in police force to ensure their empowerment.
"In this government, this has been approved and implemented in ten states and 7 union territories in the country," she told the House.
In her written reply, Ms Irani admitted that India ranked 95th out of 129 countries in a recently published Global Gender Equality Index by a joint effort of regional and global organisations from civil society, development and private sectors.
She said though the report claims the said index to be based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the report is based on only few indicators out of 232 UN approved global indicators.
Smriti Irani said India has developed its own framework to monitor the SDGs, which is based on 306 India specific indicators and that the Equal Measure report has been published without consulting the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
"The Government has various strategies to promote gender equality in the country. These include interventions in the form of schemes, legislations and other initiatives to create an environment wherein women will be able to achieve their full potential," she added.
The principle of gender equality is enshrined within the Indian Constitution, that not only guarantees gender equality but also empowers the State to formulate affirmative action in favour of women, she said. "In the recent years, there has been enactment of various legislations by Indian Parliament which addresses the issue of gender inequality, discrimination and violence faced by women. Some of these include The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 to provide a safe and secure environment to women at the workplace," she said.
The minister said in order to ensure that the marital status of a woman does not subject her to any form of discrimination or hardship, the Passport Rules were suitably amended by the government. Now an applicant does not have to mandatorily submit their father's name or provide marriage or divorce certificate while applying for a passport.
Similarly, in the PAN Card application forms, mentioning the father's name is no longer mandatory for a person whose mother is a single parent. "These schematic, legislative and other initiatives and interventions send a strong message towards gender equality," Ms Irani said.