Union Minister for Women and Child Development Smriti Irani on Thursday told the United Nations that India has taken several measures to ensure the “safety, security and well being of women” during the coronavirus pandemic, ANI reported. She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “visionary leadership” has heralded women-led development in the country.

Speaking at the 25th Anniversary of the Fourth Conference on Women, the Bharatiya Janata Party leader said that India recognises the significance of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“Women numerically constitute half of humanity but their influence transfuses all dimensions of society, polity, and economy,” Irani said. “In India, we recognise the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment in all aspects of our developmental journey.”

Irani also spoke of the Centre’s the One Stop Centre scheme set up to address violence against women. She said the scheme provides medical, psychological, legal, police and shelter facilities to women.

Besides this, she said that during the pandemic, all efforts are being made to ensure continuity of care for women, especially pregnant and lactating women and women in vulnerable situations, reported PTI. “India is committed to building a just and equal post-Covid-19 world for women and daughters,” she added.

The Union minister said India was now focussed on inclusive growth and deep reforms that together are bringing about transformational changes. “Heralding these changes under the leadership of our visionary Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we have moved from a paradigm of women’s development to women-led development,” she said.

Irani said that eliminating all forms of gender discrimination was the top priority of her government.

“Several of our legislations such as those pertaining to sexual harassment of women at the workplace, protection of women from domestic violence, protection of children from sexual offences, and our criminal laws’ amendments, have been strong enablers of women empowerment and protection of children especially girls, over the past six years.”

— Smriti Irani

The Union minister added that reservation of seats in local government bodies for women has ensured that more than 1.3 million elected women representatives provide leadership in formulation and implementation of “gender-sensitive public policies at the community level”.

Irani’s statements come at a time when the country is witnessing large-scale protests following the death of a 19-year-old Dalit girl from Hathras in Uttar Pradesh, who was gangraped and violently tortured by four upper-caste men. She died in a hospital on Tuesday morning from her injuries.

The four men have been arrested. However, the woman was hastily cremated by the police, which has evoked public shock and outrage. The Opposition has come down heavily on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government in the state and Centre. They have particularly questioned the silence of Irani, who is in charge of women development.

On Wednesday, All India Mahila Congress President Sushmita Dev had called Irani the most “shameless woman & child development minister in history of India”. “She has proven she has no conviction, zero integrity,” the Congress leader had said.