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Culture/Religion India

Roadblocks to Women’s Reservation Bill

The topic of Gender Equality has gained much prominence in this century. Every progressive nation is working towards achieving equality for women in all aspects of the social structure. However the reality is that women are still far behind in many areas in most nations and there are still some big roadblocks to clear.

The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in a report stated:

“Though women have progressed relatively slowly in the  areas of education, literacy and employment, there have been encouraging signs of improvement in women’s legislative representation. The increase in women’s share of seats in parliament was attributed mainly to political measures in several countries, where quotas were legislated or adopted on a voluntary basis.”

As shown in the table below only 17 countries have reached the 30 per cent benchmark in electing women to national parliaments; many of these countries are known to have used quotas. In  US and  Japan women’s share of parliamentary seats were only 16.80 per cent  and 9.40  per cent respectively. India is at 99th rank with 10.90 % representation of women in Parliament.

In the recently constituted 15th Lok Sabha, 59 women MPs are elected, while  it amounts to only 10.90 % representation ,  a legislation should have brought 183 MPs , i.e 33% women to Lok Sabha.

Rank

Country

Lower or single House

Upper House or Senate

Elections

Seats*

Women

% W

Elections

Seats*

Women

% W

1

Rwanda

9 2008

80

45

56.3%

10 2003

26

9

34.6%

2

Sweden

9 2006

349

164

47.0%

3

South Africa

4 2009

400

174

43.5%

4 2009

54

16

29.6%

4

Cuba

1 2008

614

265

43.2%

5

Iceland

4 2009

63

27

42.9%

6

Finland

3 2007

200

83

41.5%

7

Netherlands

11 2006

150

62

41.3%

5 2007

75

26

34.7%

8

Argentina

10 2007

255

102

40.0%

10 2007

72

28

38.9%

9

Denmark

11 2007

179

68

38.0%

10

Angola

9 2008

220

82

37.3%

11

Costa Rica

2 2006

57

21

36.8%

12

Spain

3 2008

350

127

36.3%

3 2008

263

79

30.0%

13

Norway

9 2005

169

61

36.1%

14

Belgium

6 2007

150

53

35.3%

6 2007

71

27

38.0%

15

Mozambique

12 2004

250

87

34.8%

16

New Zealand

11 2008

122

41

33.6%

17

Nepal

4 2008

594

197

33.2%

33

Australia

11 2007

150

40

26.7%

11 2007

76

27

35.5%

47

Pakistan

2 2008

338

76

22.5%

3 2009

100

17

17.0%

64

Bangladesh

12 2008

345

64

18.6%

72

United States of America

11 2008

435

73

16.8%

11 2008

98

15

15.3%

99

India

4 2009

543

59

10.9%

7 2008

243

23

9.5%

Japan

9 2005

480

45

9.4%

7 2007

242

44

18.2%

In India, we are surprised to see that the Women’s Reservation Bill which propose 33% reservation to women in Parliament is not yet passed by the parliament. The bill was tabled in the Parliament thirteen years back. Most political parties have expressed support for this bill but so far only discussions, debates and deliberations are taking place in the name of achieving consensus projecting a picture of a deliberate delay .

It is always very difficult to bring drastic changes in politics and society overnight since the “status quoist’s” plan and bring obstacles for a change. They never admit that they oppose a change and  blame others for not effecting a change.

Changes are initiated and discussions about a change is set in motion only when the forces representing alternate voices gain power. We can recall and compare what happened and is happening in the case of reservation to other backward classes.

When Viswanath Pratap Singh was the Prime Minister leading a Non Congress – Non BJP Government, he implemented the recommendations of Mandal Commission report to provide reservation for other backward classes who were under- represented in education and employment at that time. This is one major change in Indian policy effected when the “status quoist’s” were temporarily kept out of power. This happened after 45 years of achieving independence and after finding backward classes lagging behind the elites in those four decades, purely due to their historical and hereditary liability of social and educational backwardness. But both Congress party and Bharathiya Janatha party opposed that  move and VP Singh was made to step down from power.

Again only a Non Congress and Non BJP Government of United Front led by Deve Gowda, tabled 81’st constitution amendment bill for providing reservation to women in legislative bodies for the first time in 1996. This was to be the next major change since achieving independence.  That too was initiated when the “status quoist’s” were out of power again for a brief period. Since then thirteen years have passed. Subsequent governments were run by either BJP or Congress party. And they too tabled the amendment bill but failed to pass it. It is ironical that these parties are blaming the parties run by backward class leaders for blocking the women’s reservation bill.

It is interesting tp note that those who opposed empowering backward class people through providing reservation, pretend to  support women’s reservation bill while those who are in favour of reservation for other backward classes are seen opposing the reservation for women in parliament. I think, this kind of a philosophical clash has been created deliberately to stall or delay the empowerment of Women.

Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr. Lallu Prasad Yadav and Mr.Sharath Yadav are known to have expressed their opinion against enacting women’s reservation bill in its present form and are demanding separate reservation for other backward class (OBC) women. These three leaders are collectively called as “Cowbelt politicians” or described as “Mandal brigade” by partisan elite media.

Samajwadi Party (SP) of Mulayam Singh Yadav opposed the proposed women’s reservation bill, terming it as a “conspiracy” against the leaders who have reached the Lok Sabha through “hard struggles”. The SP chief also backed the contention of JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav that if the bill was passed without a consensus, it would amount to giving “poison by force” by the ruling class to those opposed to the legislation as had been done to Greek philosopher Socrates. But the media twisted the story and was reporting that Sharath Yadav would consume poison if the bill was passed!

Those who accuse these Yadavs for their opinion conveniently hide a fact that the major political parties Congress and BJP had always had opportunities in the past thirteen years while running the governments, to join together in this issue to corner a two third majority to bring an amendment to the constitution but are dodging in the name of consensus form very minor parties. Why is a 100% consensus needed on this? Is it possible?

The truth is that both BJP and Congress party under the control of “manuwadi” established forces were not sincere and wanted to delay the amendment to constitution as far as possible. Further all the parties including these major parties are predominantly filled by men. Now a situation has developed that it can no more be delayed especially when a women from a foreign country is committed to fulfill the long spoken promise.

Let us see the ideas of those who pretend to support the women reservation bill.

In Sloga 9-32 of  Bagavath Gita Lord Krishna has magnanimously said

O son of Pritha, those who take shelter in Me, though born out of womb of sin —women, vaishyas [merchants] and shudras [workers]—can attain the supreme destination.”

According to Gita, women ( including those born in Forward castes) are born out of womb of sin and are comparable with lowly vaisyas and sudras. Such is the position of women granted by Lord and the followers of orthodox Hindu Religion.

Like any other fanatic organization of any other religion, the R.S.S by its Hindu ideology cannot entertain women in politics and many BJP Leaders too have opposed empowerment of women which is not discussed in Media.

This is not to find fault with R.S.S or specifically  the Hindu society but to say that the orthodox religious practices are  universal and the Indian society is not an exception.

The former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter – a member of a group of global leaders called the “Elders” said:

“I have been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world.So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was both painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service. This was in conflict with my belief — confirmed in the holy scriptures —that we are all equal in the eyes of God.”

Thiruvalluvar, a first century compiler of moral values “Thirukkural” based on the society in that period, depicts woman as a person supporting men in the family life. Although in his Kural 54, he exclaims what could be greater than womanhood in this world, he attaches a condition of chaste to it. Moreover while giving rules for men in politics in chapter 91, Thiruvalluvar asks the men not to take advice from wives!

Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women - Millennium development goal no 3 set by United Nations

Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women – Millennium development goal no 3 set by United Nations

Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women – Millennium development goal no# 3 set by United Nations

If we have to attribute lesser reasons to Religion for suppressing women in public life, we have to only blame the very evolution of the society  in favour of men bound by many factors including religion. Woman of this day carry the past of their ancestors just like the sections of the society belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. Our Indian society too  is hippocratic in its ideas on women. We can see a poor man worshipping women deities and singing  in praise of goddess in the evening and on returning home by night drunk to his neck beating  his wife and scolding in a lowly language. Same thing happens in a rich mans house but in a different style.

Can we forget the inhuman practices of the orthodox Hindus such as shaving the head of young widows and throwing them to a corner of the house or pushing them in the funeral fire of their husbands? Such things lasted up to the last century and there were few who argued in favour of such practices . These were the people who even argued for the continuation of Devadasi system in the Madras state assembly by assigning divine purpose for prostitution. Such ideas are still hiding in the hearts of the so called progressive establishments and they always try to stop women from actively participating in the social, economic and political activities. Further, It is  convenient for men to retain women in family life since she nowadays earns more and also works in the home as an unpaid maid.

One need not belong to any political party, religion or a caste to go against women’s reservation bill. It is just very simple –  Men oppose Women’s Reservation Bill because they are Men and particularly more so since they are Indian men.

roadblocks-to-womens-reservation-bill

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