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India’s Budgetary Allocations For Women’s Safety Is Grossly Inadequate, Says A Report By Oxfam India

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Time and again, we have spoken about how our country is failing its women. Every day more men commit gruesome and violent crimes against women and it keeps getting worse. No one can deny that women in India have never been more at risk then they are right now. Which begs the question, despite all the measures seemingly taken by our government and the creation if the Nirbhaya fund, why is women’s safety in our country down to the sewers? NGO Oxfam India found that the state’s investment on combating violence against women and girls is “grossly inadequate”. Why are we not surprised?

In a report examining the country’s budgetary commitment to increasing women’s safety, Oxfam India found that the funds which were set aside to open helplines, crisis centres and introducing gender-sensitisation training for authorities, remain unspent. Even the Nirbhaya fund is low on resources and extremely under-utilised. This is all very shameful.

The Towards Violence Free Lives For Women report noted that in our country of 1.3 billion people, a woman is raped every 15 minutes. After analysing India’s budget for the last three years, it found that to fight gender-based violence, the country was spending merely Rs 30 per woman and girl annually. And for the 80 million women who are subjected to sexual violence, the report found that the budget allocation reached merely around Rs 102.

Also Read: 44 Men Sexually Assaulted A 17-Year-Old Girl From Kerala Over A Span Of 5 Years. Why Isn’t Women’s Safety A Priority?

Amita Pitre, lead specialist for gender justice at Oxfam India, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, “That is grossly inadequate.” She added, “You would expect more would be done for their food security, social protection and to address the violence they suffer, but you don’t see it.”

Pitre emphasised that the country’s gender budget for 2021-2022 is only marginally higher than it was last year. This means there is hardly any progress.

Now let’s come to the big question in everyone’s mind, or at least on mine: What about the extremely under-utilised Nirbhaya Fund? It was set up by former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in 2013 after the violent gang rape of Jyoti Singh, aka Nirbhaya. Rs 1000 crores was allocated for empowerment, safety and security of women and girl children. But was it just primarily set up on paper? Or as a way of pacifying the rage and protests that broke out at the time? This is such a disappointment.

Amita said that the state allocated money from the Nirbhaya fund has been used for strengthening forensic laboratories and improving emergency response services. But these don’t cater exclusively to women and women’s safety but benefit law enforcement in general. That’s not the point of the Nirbhaya fund, is it?

The Oxfam India report also found that about a third of Indian women have suffered domestic violence. The report, citing government data and various women’s rights activists said that much more needs to be done.

According to official data, India has nearly 600 crisis centres to help women access police services, counselling and doctors. And an equal number of short-stay homes and shelters for women who escape domestic abuse. This is not nearly enough. Especially since the pandemic and the lockdown have tripled the domestic abuse cases.

If we want to make progress and keep women safe from violent crimes, the government needs to do better. Not utilising funds that are set aside for women’s safety or utilising them for something else entirely is clearly not working. We need more help-lines, crisis centres and short-stay shelters. This report makes it clear that the women’s safety system in our country needs serious reworking. We need more action and less empty-claims.

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