Maliwal said all ashrams which house followers should register such centers with the district authorities, and a failure to ensure the same should attract strict penal action.
Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, recommending regular inspection of ashrams and religious centers housing women, in the backdrop of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh’s conviction in a rape case recently. Maliwal said all ashrams which house followers should register such centers with the district authorities, and a failure to ensure the same should attract strict penal action. In her letter to the prime minister, the DCW chief said the case (of Dera chief) may be “reflective of a larger malaise” and recommended that strict guidelines and laws be framed and implemented to check illegal activities (if any) in some religious institutions housing women across the country.
She said that every institution be it shelter homes, old age homes and children homes are monitored by courts, commissions, welfare bodies and the government. “However, it appears that similar checks and balances are not in place for ashrams and other religious institutions in the country having residential complexes. “Therefore, it is the need of the hour that safeguards are put in place to ensure that women remain protected in such institutions,” read the letter.
The women’s panel head further recommended that all such ashrams, spiritual or religious centers should report the details of their residents to the district authorities on a monthly basis. “All admissions of minors to the religious centers should be monitored by the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) concerned and it should be mandated that all minors are first interviewed and counselled by the CWC in order to ascertain their own consent and awareness for the decision.
“This will ensure that no child is forcibly sent to such centers at the behest of parents or other persons,” Maliwal said. She also stressed on putting up prominent hoardings and boards displaying government emergency numbers and helpline numbers, particularly women and child help lines such as 181, inside the ashrams and residential centers.
Further, in order to ensure strict transparency in the functioning of these institutions, government audits of the accounts and properties should be conducted and displayed on public fora, she said. “Due to the criminal activities of a few people, the entire spiritual heritage of our country is being defamed. However, ending the illegal practices in certain religious institutions should be taken up urgently so that no other woman is made to suffer,” she said.