France now has a gender equality ministry and its secretary, Maria Schiappa, wants immediate fine for those who indulge in street harassment. The 34-year-old ministry secretary says it is her top priority to draft a bill making it a crime to harass women on the streets, reports NPR.

The youngest member of President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet, Schiappa grew up in Paris where she found that walking on streets is a huge challenge for women. Harassment, cat-calling, groping etc is an everyday routine in the city. And so she decided to make it a goal to make France’s public spaces safer for women and girls.

It is interesting to have a ministry dedicated to gender equality. Mauritius and South Korea also have ministries of gender equality and family. So we wonder if the same could be replicated here in our country as harassment of women is one of the major concerns here as well.

SheThePeople.TV reached out to people working towards gender equality and every one of them resonated with the idea.

Gender equality as budget activity
Monica Jasuja of Mastercard, who advocates gender equality in workplace, said, “It needs institutionalised support until it becomes a reality. To ensure that the government should propel gender equality as a state function, tracked as a budget activity. Whatever gets tracked gets done. We can only achieve accountability and change through state intervention that impacts 50% of India’s marginalised and oppressed population — women.”

Pan gender perspective
Talking from a pan gender perspective, gay rights activist, Harish Iyer, is positive about the idea. But he wonders who will head the gender equality ministry if we have it in future. “Who will be fit for the job makes a lot of difference. Presently, we have a woman heading the WCD ministry like Maneka Gandhi making atrocious statements every now and then. So it’s not just having a position that makes a difference, having the right person with the right intent also plays a major role.”

He added, “In a more ideal way, I think gender and sexual minority ministry will make a lot of difference. But looking at the current political climate, it would do more damage than good.”

Iyer made a pertinent point questioning the ability and authority such a ministry would require.

The idea resonates with Rachel Bali, founder of Krantikali, an organisation that advocates gender sensitization. “We definitely need a ministry overhaul by revamping and introducing a minister or ministry working to bridge the gender gap in India. Now that we’ve finally acknowledged the “Third gender” and hopefully will do away with section 377.”

Bali adds, “I feel this way we’d have taken a strong step towards gender equity across genders and sexes. It’s 2017 and it’s high time we revamp this portfolio. And before this, we definitely need to ensure that all Indian ministers undergo a basic level of gender sensitization.”

Rampant inequality
Social and gender equality activist and leader of Bhumata Brigade, Trupti Desai, also lauds the idea. She says, “Women and men alike face challenges and issues pertaining to their own gender. And so a ministry that would equally look after the rights of both and not giving precedence of one on another, would really help the country.”

“I feel that our PM should also declare it in Mann Ki Baat as he talk so much about women’s development there. The kind of inequality going round in the country is immense and to tackle it, we must root for gender equality ministry,” said Desai.

She is relentlessly working towards ensuring equality in entry in religious places.

Secretary of All India Progressive Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan, also supports having a gender equality ministry. In her opinion, the government should spell out the aim clearly. “What you find in India is that in the name of women’s development, there is constant denigration of women,” Krishnan said.

Separate ministry for kids

Commenting on the WCD ministry, she said that actually children deserve a dedicated ministry for their own. “Children and women should not be clubbed together. I feel that children are deeply neglected when it comes to teaching gender equality. The ministry needs to ensure education instead of having moral values.”

“It should make sure that children learn about gender equality from the very beginning. So the core of it should be what kind of feminist values we are imparting amongst children.”

Just a bureaucratic move?

However, not everyone believes that merely instituting a ministry for gender equality will bring about a change in people’s mindset. Shruti Kapoor, founder of Sayfty.com, says: “No because adding another minister will not ensure gender equality! There are plenty of ministers who, if they want, can work towards achieving GE. GE requires a shift in mindsets and people, organizations and systems need to bring about a fundamental shift in their attitude towards women and girls to make progress towards GE. Adding another minister is just a bureaucratic/political move to show the govt cares abt GE. But it doesn’t change anything on the ground!”

What do you think? Write in with your views.