WOMEN’S BILL Anne Besant, Indira Gandhi, Madhubala, Mother Teresa, Chanda Kochhar, Kalpana Chawla, Arundhati Roy, Sarojini Naidu, P T Usha, Indra Nooyi, Madhuri Dixit, Sonia Gandhi are among many women who made India proud, and will continue to do so with the entry of lots more in the list. Of course, women have won more than quotas. Even rotating constituencies would make more women stand for office, by introducing into politics women who are capable of winning elections even after reservations are withdrawn. However, critics found this reservation, the least radical of all reservations.
Almost everyone gave only one cheer for the bill, not two and certainly not three. Demand for female sub-quota within existing quotas showed the female’ inclination more towards their society, than the gender bias. In another story highlighted by Sobhaa De in her article, a man in Orissa refused to take his wife (a mother of five + highly successful mushroom farmer) back after her three-day trip to Delhi, where she’d gone to receive a very special award after seeking her husband’s permission to go for the ceremony; depicting nothing major has changed since Valmiki wrote the Ramayana.
Of many deprivations caused by our society, discrimination against female politicians is the least important. Sonia Gandhi & Indira Gandhi did not battle male discrimination to get to the top & are doing / did extraordinarily well. Consider, for example case of Hillary Clinton in States. Such women are not representative of the female masses, yet can dominate politics. Focusing on educating our women en masse could be a smarter route to take. Lalu Prasad rightly said that most of the reserved female constituencies might be grabbed by wives, daughters, nieces of top politicians.
But, having seven daughters, he himself is well placed. Female seat reservations can transform society far more in Panchayats than in Parliament, where women fear physical attack if they travel beyond village limits to a dispensary / clinic & their husbands are not willing to accompany them and lose a day’s wages. Gender animus is deeply entrenched in the villages & female empowerment there can have an impact. Asking the same question, will that woman say, “To hell with you” to the man who’s questioning her character and go back to her mushrooms?
Or will a modern day version of agnipareeksha be forced on her? Will reserving legislative seats for women change these things? Or will reserving more seats for women in Parliament, bring Painter M F Hussain back home who at the age of 94 is leading a fugitive like existence. Hopefully, it does bring these revolutions; and our country doesn’t prove to be much of a banana republic. Women’s bill is no doubt a step towards womankind & it will do some good, so let’s not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Shilpa Sharma CW – Engg. (Civil)