Ministry of Women & Child Development: When Will India Separate The Two?

Ministry of Women & Child Development is one among the many departments of Government of India. Majority of Indians know about it. Most of us would assume it to be a department for the welfare of women and children, and that is what it claims to be. Things are the way they should be.  What’s improper or unseemly in this?

Would it occur to you that the name of the department – Ministry of Women & Child Development is a bit out of place in today’s era? Most of us would think what is there in a name? If the Government is doing anything worthwhile and the people are benefitting, that should be more than enough. Why needlessly get into something as trivial as a name and after all, it does convey who the ministry is working for.

That is what I also thought. However, seemingly the naming of the ministry is counterproductive to the interests of the section, it is supposed to benefit and uplift. The name of the ministry and hence the objectives it derives from the name weighs down and negates the very purpose it is supposed to achieve.

Why do women and child need to be clubbed together?

“The Department of Women and Child Development was set up in the year 1985 as a part of the Ministry of Human Resource Development to give the much needed impetus to the holistic development of women and children. With effect from 30.01.2006, the Department has been upgraded to a Ministry.” (Quoted from Wikipedia).

1985 is a bygone era. 2006 is of recent origin, however much time has elapsed since.  What would be acceptable then, has changed quite a bit now. Maybe, at that time, women and children were deemed inseparable that one cannot exist without the other. Biologically, only women give birth to children, then and now, and will do so in future. But, apart from this, why and how women and children need to be spoken about and considered in the same breath?

Ministry of Women & Child Development would talk about women’s empowerment, autonomy and self-determination. Simultaneously, it would also talk about child-rearing as a divine duty for women. Of course, there is nothing to look down upon bringing up children (I do that myself as a stay-at-home father to twin daughters). However, why only women are bestowed with this honour?

Indian society considers giving birth to children as an obligatory duty for married women. The woman’s inability/unwillingness to do so, have severe consequences for her. Even after giving birth, the life for the women remains unforgiving as the child-care is primarily considered her responsibility in addition to looking after the house-hold. If she also happens to be a working woman, nobody can save her.

The name Ministry of Women & Child Development perpetuates this stereotype. If one thinks about the betterment of women, the children cannot be left far behind. The women do not have the right and the freedom to exist, leave aside prosper, independently. She is forever tied down to the yoke of carrying for the family.

Yes, the situation is improving for her in some quarters. In that regard, why should the Government not take the initiative and lead the transformational change for women in respecting her liberty and individuality? The first step could be giving separate identity for the Ministry of Women.

The Men, The Homosexual, The Transgender

The parting of women from being a sole torch-bearer of holding up for a child has other benefits too.

The men have long ridden rough-shod over women and denied her the opportunity to pursue her personality. The perception of child-care being a shared responsibility might usher in a positive change for the age-old male chauvinist mind-set.

Being homosexual/gay is a personal choice. Supreme Court of India has decriminalized the same. Supreme Court has also declared transgender people to be a “third gender” and affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the Constitution of India will be equally applicable to transgender people.

For both these category, their right to raise a child will have to be permitted sooner than later by the Government.

All of the above makes a perfect case to de-hyphenate women and children and adopt an inclusive approach in engaging all the stake-holders for child-care. The first step could be giving separate identity for the Ministry of Children.

The separation of the Ministry of Women & Child Development is not unnecessary nit-picking about the name. This is an extremely powerful gesture about the coming of times.

It is about admitting that women have a place of their own in society, independent of their biology. It is about admitting that raising children is a shared responsibility, again independent of the biology.

What would be your say?

PS: The first step could be having a non-woman minister for this fossilized notion of a ministry. Since inception, only women have been the ministers for this ministry. I see no rationale for this absurdity.