‘Consulting women on policy inputs, clearing backlog are priorities’

After being headless for over three years, the Maharashtra State Women's Commission, got a new chairperson recently - Mumbai-based Susieben Shah, daughter of former Congress Union Minister B A Desai. The 46-year-old lawyer was previously a member of the Commission and is founder of the Priyadarshini Fleet Taxi Service for women. She is also the founder of NGO Stree Shakti Kendra and a union for domestic workers and is co-founder of a pharmaceutical company.

On the Commission's priority list

Over the years, several schemes and Acts have been implemented but these have not brought in the required sensitivity and awareness about women's issues. My foremost priority will be to consult women from various backgrounds and incorporate their inputs in the Women's Policy that is being finalised by the state.

On clearing the backlog of around 2,000 cases

It is the most important task ahead of the Commission. We are conducting marathon hearings and the entire staff is working from 10 am to 8 pm. While earlier, hearings took place on a fortnightly basis, we trying to conduct as many hearings so that we can clear 25 cases a week.

Which section of women is the most vulnerable and what is your plan of action?

The unorganised labour class, which includes domestic workers, agricultural labourers and construction labourers. They are not covered under any government scheme nor provided any incentive by the government. Also, most crimes against them tend to go unreported. A mechanism needs to be put into place to organise them in some way.

Among the various crimes committed against women, where does the Commission need to focus the most?

Nearly 50 per cent of the complaints received by the Commission pertain to domestic violence and action is taken in most of them. However, cases of sexual harassment at the workplace are increasing and often remain under wraps. As per the Vishakha judgement of the Supreme Court, it is mandatory for each company to set up an internal committee that can receive such complaints and initiate action. We will also work on sensitisation of policemen in dealing with women who are victims of sexual assault. In all cases of sexual assault, an FIR should be filed immediately.

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