Swati Maliwal, Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) Chairperson, is known for her gallant, energetic and independent approach toward issues relating to girls and women, especially their safety, security, and empowerment.
She has been continuously working for the betterment of women for the past seven years. Maliwal, who was appointed as DCW chairperson by the AAP government, has been associated with the party since its India Against Corruption (IAC) phase.
In a candid conversation with Shweta Kumari, Maliwal opens up on her seven-year journey and the changes brought by her in the functioning of DCW.
Q. In the last seven years of your tenure as Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson, what differences have you observed in the security condition of women in the capital?
A: The biggest change I witnessed is in the functioning of DCW. We have worked on over one lakh cases in seven years. We have set up 181 Women’s Helplines which receive almost 2,000-4,000 calls every day and they all are seeking help from the authority. DCW has even set up a Rape Crisis Cell, Mahila Panchayat, and a Crisis Intervention Centre which are helping women 24×7. DCW is continuously working for the development of women and we never feel shy about raising questions to any authority, which, I think, is the biggest revolutionary change.
Q: How many queries are there on the women’s helpline number every day and how does DCW deal with those calls?
A: We receive around 2,000-4,000 calls every day and attend to almost all queries. There is less than one percent call drop and by chance, if there is any drop, immediately we revert to them. Plus each and every call is attended to. There is a proper SOP and the team provides immediate help wherever required. Also, all the calls are recorded which makes it more effective.
Q: Despite many efforts and DCW also working hard for women, Delhi continues to be known as the “Rape Capital”. What is your view on this? Is it really not safe for women to work or study here?
A: It’s my greatest grief to accept that yes Delhi is still the “Rape Capital”. Here an 8-month-old baby has been raped, and a 90-year-old lady has also been raped and this is really shameful that despite so much hard work, and protests, we are still in the same place. And I think, for Delhi, the police are very much responsible for this tag. In any state, the law and order and the police have more power to stop any crime and here both come under the Central government. So the central government owes more to the condition of the capital and they must work for its betterment. Also, if we look at the school level, authorities like MCD are lagging behind in providing basic facilities– security guards, and CCTV cameras to schools falling under them.
Q: Recently a girl was gang-raped in the school’s washroom. Have you submitted any memorandum to the government for the safety of girls in government schools?
A: We have issued a notice to the school where this case took place and asked them to take necessary action. And yes we have raised the safety issue with all the authorities. Also, what I have seen by far is that both the Delhi Government schools and MCD schools need major changes in the installation of CCTV cameras, provision of security guards, and proper security of students. The student-teacher ratio needs to be increased. Many Delhi Government schools have these facilities, but the MCD schools are completely lagging behind on this. They need to increase the number of ‘aayas’ (women helpers at school) for nursery class students. Moreover, proper counseling should be done. Both Delhi Government schools and MCD schools have fewer counselors which surely needs to be increased. More awareness camps should be organized, especially on the POCSO Act. Civil society needs to be included, and curriculum changes should be done. All these steps are important and must be taken to ensure the safety of girls (also boys) in schools.
Q: Why have you not made any comments on the Bilkis Bano case? It’s been a long time.
A: I have definitely tweeted about the Bilkis Bano case because this is one of those cases which pushed me to opt for activism and this case has anguished me at such a deep level that a woman who was gang-raped, her family was killed in front of her, is still demanding justice after bearing so much. I am extremely pained and angry with the release of all those rapists. A lot of people wrote to me and asked me why I am not taking any action over this. I want to take action, I want to do something for such a horrific incident, but I can’t because I am just the DCW chief and not the NCW chief. If I had been the NCW chief, I would have definitely ensured that these men were behind the bars. But I look up to the Supreme Court and really hope that they make a strong judgment in the case and take action against these men (rapists) and also those who garlanded them.
Q: Since bus rides for women are free in the capital, a few of the drivers avoid stopping the bus for women. What is your take and how will you audit?
A: I heard about this issue during my visits to Mahila Panchayat, but we haven’t received any written complaints yet. So if any woman files a complaint about this, we will surely take strict action.
Q: It’s almost 10 years since the Nirbhaya case and still, there are a number of stretches that are completely dark. Are you doing anything about it?
A: I think dark spots are not the only problem, but it’s also about the lights which are there but not working. DCW has raised this issue several times with all the authorities which include PWD, MCD, Irrigation & Flood Control department, and others authorities. We have also raised this issue with the honorable LG and I have been demanding two things – firstly the dark spots need to be tackled on a priority, and secondly, I want that each pole should be marked and there should be a proper website that shows which pole falls under which authority and must provide brief information to the citizens. There should be proper mapping and monitoring and if any pole doesn’t work for more than 48 hours, action should be taken.
Q: Recently you initiated a study on the Rights of Hindu Women Refugees in Delhi. Why just ‘Hindu women’ and not ‘Muslim women’?
A: I saw the condition of the Hindu women refugees at ‘Majnu Ka Tila’. They are living in a very pathetic condition and they have been tortured so much. They are living here because they have faced so many atrocities in Pakistan. I have initiated this study because they have been living for the past 10 years in Delhi and still don’t have any relief or facilities, which is why I have taken up this issue. Also for us both are equal and if we get any complaint about Muslim women refugees’ condition in Delhi, I will surely react to it and take major steps for them.
Q: The capital has witnessed a spike of 30 percent in domestic violence cases as per the latest reports. What steps will DCW take to safeguard women?
A: If we want to tackle the issue of domestic violence, three-four major steps need to be taken. For all the cases we receive, we try to help them at all levels whether it is in filing FIR or going to court but the problem is domestic violence is still considered a small crime. Because of this, there is a lot of pendency in these cases in the courts. Many times filling out FIRs becomes a difficult task. We are raising our voices at all forums but the other authorities also need to be active. There is a strong requirement for the betterment of law and order. The police need to be strong and active. Also, there should be a speedy judicial process for these cases.
Q: You wrote a letter to Minister Anurag Thakur regarding the removal of Sajid Khan from the Bigg Boss show, but still, there is no action. What will be your next step on this?
A: We are trying to seek legal action. We have already written to the highest authority. Still, if there is no action against Sajid Khan, it’s really sad. Also, DCW will not take backward steps, we will raise questions with the Union Minister and ask how he could allow such people to whitewash their image. Where has the investigation reached now in his case (Sajid Khan)? When I am raising my voice I am getting rape threats, but I will not stop and I think the Union Minister must look into this matter and take strong action.