Skip to main content

Safety of Women (India)

Volume 557: debated on Tuesday 22 January 2013

6. What recent representations he has made to the Government of India on the safety of women and the rule of law. (138336)

We regularly discuss human rights issues with India, including the protection of women, both bilaterally and through the EU/India human rights dialogue. Women’s rights are on the agenda for the next instalment of the dialogue. I welcome the fact that the Indian Government continue to take steps to promote the rights of women and hope they will continue their efforts in this regard.

One in three women will be beaten or raped in her lifetime in this world. Whether the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, the events in Steubenville in Ohio, what is happening in Congo, or even what is happening on our own streets and towns in Britain, the scale of violence against women and girls is overwhelming. The One Billion Rising campaign is leading campaigners in 188 countries to call for that issue to be a priority for all Governments to eliminate. Will the Foreign Secretary join us in supporting that campaign, and say so today, and will he do all that he can to encourage the Leader of the House to make sure that on 14 February we can debate these matters in a One Billion Rising debate?

This Government will stop at nothing in trying to stamp out violence of any sort against women, wherever it takes place. Unfortunately, there is too much violence against women even in our own country. The Under-Secretary of State for International Development, my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Lynne Featherstone), is taking forward an international campaign to end violence against women, and will represent the UK at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which will focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. I would also say to the hon. Member for Walthamstow (Stella Creasy) that we are using Britain’s presidency of the G8 to run a year-long campaign, led by the Foreign Secretary, on preventing sexual violence in armed conflicts.

The Minister of State has ably demonstrated that there is plenty of scope for a full day’s debate, and to that we look forward with eager anticipation.

It is estimated that a rape takes place every 21 minutes in India. Does my right hon. Friend believe that the UK should offer specialist advice and training to the Indian police to help rape victims and to protect women from these horrific crimes?

I share my hon. Friend’s horror at the recent events, not least the rape of the 23-year-old medical student in Delhi. We welcome the steps that the Indian Government have taken to promote the rights of women, including laws on sex-selective abortions and action against human trafficking. We will work, if asked, with the Indian Government, but it is an internal Indian matter, which we shall certainly continue to raise with them.

18. The brutal rape and murder of the young 23-year-old woman was perhaps the starkest example of the brutality faced by many young girls growing up in India. The risk is that all the good intentions sound like impotent hand-wringing. Will the Minister perhaps be more specific about the steps in bilateral discussion with the Indian authorities that he seeks to achieve? (138348)

The right hon. Lady needs to acknowledge that India has a liberal constitution and a strong political framework, and that women hold high-ranking positions in politics and civil society, so we are sure that the Indian Government can continue those efforts. More specifically, DFID is working with the Indian Government, for instance, in Bihar, to help 60,000 more girls to stay in secondary school and give 3 million more women access to wider choices in family planning, health, nutrition, micro-finance, and skills for jobs. It is about enabling women and raising their status in Indian society, and we continue to do that in conjunction with the Indian Government themselves.

Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the advice that is being given to British nationals planning to travel to India, as they will be concerned about their personal safety following these awful events?

I have reviewed the advice that we gave this morning to travellers going to India. We have not changed our advice. Clearly, we urge women, wherever they are travelling, to take care, particularly if travelling at night in unfamiliar places, and ideally to travel in conjunction with others. People should always look at the Foreign Office website before they travel anywhere in the world, because our advice is kept constantly under review.