MHA forms new division to deal with women’s safety, calls it top priority

Months after the Kathua and Unnao rapes that triggered countrywide public ire, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has created a new division to deal with all issues of women’s safety in coordination with relevant ministries, departments and state governments.

The Ministry has appointed a 1993 batch AGMUT cadre officer, Punya Salila Srivastava, as Joint Secretary to head this division that will deal with crimes against women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; crimes against children, elderly persons; anti-trafficking cell; matters relating to prison legislation and prison reforms; all schemes under Nirbhaya Fund; Crime and Criminal Tracking and Network System; and National Crime Records Bureau. Salila was earlier posted as Education Secretary in the Delhi government and was recently sent on central deputation to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

“In order to address offences against women, particularly rape, in a holistic and time-bound manner, the new division would focus to enhance capacity of the existing administrative, investigative, prosecution and judicial machinery, along with appropriate measures for rehabilitation of victims and bringing attitudinal changes in society,” a Home Ministry statement said. It said the division was being considered to create a national mission for the safety of women, with participation of stakeholder ministries and departments, who would undertake specified actions in a time-bound manner.

These included setting up of special Fast Track Courts (FTCs), strengthening of forensic set up and building up of national registry of sexual offenders, appointing additional public prosecutors, and providing appropriate medical and rehabilitation facilities to victims.
Issues like sensitisation of children through appropriate changes in school curriculum, a media campaign for raising awareness, checking proliferation of pornography materials and online content would also be addressed, the statement said.