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  • ‘Judiciary and Police should be gender sensitive to protect women’

    Published on June 7, 2011

    A woman is the full circle.  Within her is the power to create, nurture and transform.

    ~ Diane Mariechild ~

    Photograph taken by Suresh Kumar for APNNEWS

    DR.T N Seema -Photo by Suresh Kumar

    Draped in a low cost printed cotton sari and a small bindi at the middle of forehead Dr.T N Seema, the agile woman Rajya Sabha Member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) from Kerala, presents a symbol of simplicity. Born to a communist couple,   it was not any hasty decision for her to take up politics a fulltime engagement.  The soft-spoken former college teacher is a determined fighter.   She is keen on issues concerning the proletariats and spends much of her time working among them.   A former student of literature, Dr Seema takes time out of her busy schedule to read and write mostly poems and modern works. Music is her passion

    The young MP  is unassuming and accessible. Even after a hectic day with the party secretariat in the state capital appeared unexhausted and greeted visitors at her modest living room with a serene smile.  In a candid hour long talk with our editor Suresh Kumar the lady Lawmaker put across her views on issues of importance. Excerpts:

    What made you take up politics a fulltime engagement relinquishing the coveted college teacher’s job?

    It was never a sudden decision.  In 1996 I had an opportunity to work with the planning board on deputation. During the course of my tenure in the board I had the opportunity to directly interact with people from different stratum and had the firsthand knowledge of their issues and problems.  The five years I spent in the planning board really made me think aloud to fight for their causes.  In 2008 I relinquished my job (of a college teacher) to take up fulltime political assignment as state president of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).   In April 2010 I got elected into the Upper House on CPM ticket.  Now I as Member of Parliament I am able to fight for the causes of the ‘children of lesser god’.

    As a Member of Parliament what is your priority?

    My priority is always the working class and women. So any issue concerning them is of my interest. I give preference to the issues related to women in general and the workingwomen in particular. Total empowerment of women in the country is my dream.  Women of every stratum should be empowered in every respect.  Their participation in governance has to be promoted in every sector.

    What could be the prominent issue that you intend to take up?

    The issues are not the same everywhere. It could vary from time to time and place to place. For example the issue that is relevant for the women in Kerala may not hold good for their counterparts in other parts of the country.  In Kerala violence against women, particularly domestic violence is a nerve-racking issue.  I am seriously concerned of the harassment (of women). In fact, the bill against harassment of women in work place is in progress. But, unfortunately the term workplace has not been vividly defined and groups those need protection like sex workers, domestic workers, and the women working in traditional industries have not been included.  So we plan to conduct a seminar involving legal luminaries and constitutional experts to deliberate on defining the ambit (of the bill).  All India Democratic Women’s Association is organizing a work shop on this bill shortly in Kochi.

    In Kerala during the last LDF regime government had posted 14 women officials as protection officers for the implementation of domestic violence protection act.

    What are the hurdles you find in fighting violence against women in Kerala?

    The main impediment in curbing violence against women is that our Judiciary, by and large, is not gender sensitive. Similar is the case of the law and order enforcement agencies like police.  Unless they are gender sensitive no considerable progress can be made in protecting women from violence.  Unless they are gender sensitive it will not be possible to enforce the law in its proper spirits.  Using the available loopholes the culprits will go scot free.   AIDWA plans to take up the matter with the Central and state governments so that the law against harassment could be enforced in its letter and spirit. Numerous cases are being reported, but just a miniscule minority gets properly redressed even in the judicial forum.

    Is there any notable achievement for your efforts in this front?

    In sports we could do effective intervention against harassment (sexual) against women. On the issue of sexual harassment of the members of the women hockey team we had met the concerned minister (M S Gill) as members of AIDWA.  The minister, after our meeting issued directions to all the state governments and the sports authority and other related organizations to constitute the cell within six months. This was a notable achievement for AIDWA.

    What was the response of states like Kerala to the call against the (sexual) harassment issue?

    As per the direction of the Supreme Court every institution that has more than five women employees need to have an anti-harassment cell.  This is applicable for all, whether it is a private or government owned institution.  But hardly any institution complies with the Supreme Court directions.  Even in Kerala most of the institutions, both in the government and private sectors, do not comply with the Court directions.

    Corruption is a burning issue. Do you believe the Lok Pal legislation will act as an effective deterrent?

    Dr T N Seema -Photo by Suresh Kumar

    I am not of the thinking that passing of legislation like Lok Pal will alone curb corruption which is so deep rooted. Of course, the legislation will provide opportunity to the civil society to intervene (against corruption). But this alone will not be any remedy. Corruption has become part of the system. Like a virus it has infected every segment of the society. It is not that we do not have provisions to contain corruption and punish the guilty. Here also corruption prevents effective implementation of the existing laws.  So, just legislation will not be enough. Its effective implementation has to be ensured to eradicate the cancer of corruption.

    Do you feel the highest offices in the country like PMO has to be excluded from the ambit of Lok Pal?

    No. No one should be kept out of the jurisdiction of the anti-corruption legislation. There are allegations of corruption targeting PMO on different issues like S- Band Spectrum.  There are allegations of corruption against many ministries including defense. So it will not be proper to keep any one out of the ambit of the legislation.

    (Full text of the interview is available in the magazine section)