THRISSUR: Vinaya N A, a police officer from Thrissur, was very happy on Sunday. The circular issued by the Administrative Reforms Committee, a day earlier, on ensuring gender equality in the state government's application forms is a personal victory for Vinaya, who had filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court highlighting the issue way back in 1999. On September 27, 2001, the HC had directed all government departments to change statements in application forms that highlighted gender inequality.
“It took them all these years. But I am happy they realised it at least now,” said Vinaya, SI of Thrissur Rural Women's police station in Irinjalakuda. The circular issued on Saturday ordered replacing the term 'wife' with 'Spouse' and 'He' and 'Him' with 'He/She' and 'Him/Her', respectively, in government application forms, including those of PSUs. It also said options to include names of either one parent or both should be added.
In her plea filed in the HC over two decades ago, Vinaya had highlighted various instances when it came to application forms and government listings that were demeaning to women. These included asking only for the father's or husband's name in forms and listing the names of women police officers at the last of the register kept in each police station.
“While I was gearing up to file the plea, many people had told me that it was foolishness. Some said the court will throw it in the bin. However, a retired clerk of the HC appreciated my effort and helped me prepare the writ petition,” said Vinaya.
Soon after the HC verdict, the police department corrected its ways and began listing the names of all officers in alphabetical order. “I had to file contempt of court petitions three times. Each time I did, I was asked to collect the copies of all the application forms that had usages and words that were against gender justice. Now, with this latest order, I am hopeful people will realise the injustices meted out to women all these years and understand the right way to treat them,” she said.
However, much still needs to be done.
Vinaya highlighted the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956, which pertains to Hindu families in Kerala, as an example. “In the Act, it is mentioned that the natural guardian of a Hindu minor boy or unmarried girl is the father and only after him, the mother. Isn’t that gender injustice? Such is the extent of patriarchy in our country,” she said.
Vinaya said her efforts to spread awareness on the need to change the system would continue both through her own efforts and through ‘Wings’, the organisation set up by her along with some like-minded people.
Highlights of Vinaya’s plea
- Asking only father’s name in forms is discriminatory against women
- ‘Woman constable’ is used by home affairs dept for women officers while for men, only ‘constable’ is used
Kerala HC’s 2001 verdict
"Forms printed by the government should be gender-neutral, provide option of both genders. We direct...to amend the forms suitably when reprinting, so that the grievance of...gender discrimination does not arise"