Women voter turnout is on the rise, but women candidates in the elections are declining. While some of the most powerful political leaders in the country are women, the ‘second sex’ comprises just 11 % of total number of MPs in Lok Sabha. Be it NaMo or Rahul Gandhi, every party leader has been parroting the same agenda – ‘women empowerment‘. They have been reading out the manifesto and assuring voters that they will work towards ensuring their safety. Issues such as increasing women representation in the parliament and reducing the gender gap in Indian judiciary are being sprinkled regularly during campaign speeches.
Is it opportunism or a genuine outreach? History would vouch for the former.
Gender inequality still haunts Indian politics. The problem runs deeper than what is visible on the surface – unfavorable sex ratio, increasing number of rape cases, etc. It’s the deep-rooted patriarchy in our political system that is not helping women’s cause in any way. Worry tickles you when you get to know that almost a negligible number of women are fielded by the political parties in the northeast, which has more women than men. On the one hand, politics speaks the language of women empowerment and on the other it is unabashedly depriving them from having a say in governance. That’s the dichotomy, which millions like me fail to decipher.
Some of the very fundamental concerns remain largely ignored. In all probability, they haven’t found a place in the election manifesto. There isn’t an iota of doubt that protection of women is a highly abused agenda in 2014 elections. What about the lack of public toilets for women or who is concerned about the problem of open defecation in rural areas? Forget about women protection or the pending Women’s Reservation Bill, enabling them to enjoy their basic rights is the least these political parties can do.
Isn’t it time to evaluate a political party on the basis of gender sensitivity it manifests in policy-making? Are you going to vote for the political outfit that continues to defend its members who are known for sexist remarks? I sincerely hope that your answer is No. We have made mistakes in the past. We did hand over the baton of governance to parties who got away by simply having a woman chief minister. However, repeating the same mistake may cause an irreversible damage.
I am not sure who all readily signed the national ‘womanifesto’, (launched in March) and too extent they have taken it earnestly. Even today, women in rural areas have difficulty in accessing clean drinking water. How do you expect them to realize their full potential when their lives are spent on fetching water from distant places? The rising household expense is a real worry for women across the country. Provision of adequate food for their families is another mounting concern for them. Apathy towards these issues shouldn’t live long.
The burden of indifference towards women welfare will now hang as an albatross on the new government coming to power. UPA government did bring the anti-rape law into force, but what it hasn’t done or thought of doing is to “attack the patriarchal mindset”. Moreover, empowering law enforcement agencies and the rape victims are also some of the ancillary initiatives, which are long overdue.
My only hope lies on the rising political consciousness and general awareness among voters. Political parties won’t be able to hoodwink them anymore by the clichéd strategy of roping in female celebrities to endorse their ideology and appeal to women voters. And yes, distributing sarees and pressure cookers doesn’t warm the cockles of their hearts.
Although it’s presumptuous to say whether the new government will champion the cause of women, yet the optimists like me would like to believe that the paradigm is shifting.