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Remembering the women of the Constituent Assembly | Opinion – analysis


In 1925, Mahatma Gandhi commented that “as long as women do not come to public life and purify it, we are not likely to achieve … swaraj. Even if we did, we would not have use for that kind of swaraj to which women have not made their total contribution. ” A few years later, she commented that “the role that women played in the fight for freedom should be written in gold letters.”

To say that the women of the freedom movement complied with the standards of the Mahatma would be an understatement. Beyond the freedom movement itself, the parliamentarians played a fundamental role in the orientation of the Constituent Assembly, thus playing an important role in determining the form and future of the Indian Constitution. However, the history of India has not been kind to unconditional women as Mahatma would have liked, and far from being remembered in “golden letters,” most women in the Constituent Assembly have gradually faded from public consciousness. .

In the year 71 of the Republic, We must remember the contributions of these women to their creation. From Dakshayani Velayudhan’s significance of her status as a Pulaya woman to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur’s founding of the first All-India Institute of Medical Sciences as India’s health minister, the women’s movement today owes a debt of gratitude to the stalwarts From the past. The debates of the Constituent Assembly were, in many ways, shaped by the contributions of Begum Aizaz Rasul, Durgabhai Deshmukh, Renuka Ray, Purnima Banerjee and many others. To this day, the defenders of the Indian Constitution trust their contributions.

However, despite all the exceptional contributions of women from the Constituent Assembly, we have struggled to update and institutionalize the role of women in current politics. From a representation of 5% in Lok Sabha’s first election, the percentage of female representatives in the chamber has risen to just 14%. Since 1962, of the 543 constituencies in India, almost half (48.4%) have not voted for a single woman parliamentarian, which is one of the most serious representative injustices in the country’s history.

In the past, indicators that measure the empowerment of women in India have constantly improved. In the health sector, the country has experienced a rapid improvement in maternal mortality rates. The education sector has seen a jump in school fees. While women in India continue to improve their capacity and economic contributions to society, the Indian electorate still considers them unfit for representative duty.

The 2019 elections, however, show that change is near. In addition to sending the largest number of women to Parliament, the current government has commissioned women to lead critical ministries. From the skillful handling of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by the late Sushma Swaraj in the last term to the remarkable resolution of Nirmala Sitharaman in his term as Minister of Defense and now Minister of Finance, women in India have shown that they are more than capable of lead when given. the opportunity.

However, beyond ministerial assignments, the numerical representation in the Cabinet remains unfortunately low, and from the maximum of six cabinet ministers in 2014, we have fallen to three. Even more worrying is the decline in women’s representation at the highest levels of government. the Economic Survey from 2017-18 he observed that women constituted 44.2% of the elected representatives in the panchayati raj institutions. However, at the state level, especially in the heart of the Hindi, the representation of women effectively collapses. The current cabinet in Uttar Pradesh features only one woman; Madhya Pradesh has two; Bihar has only one; and Rajasthan has none.

The message sent to young women in India is not particularly subtle. While women continue to cast their votes in greater numbers, the real possibilities for high-level leadership at the state and national levels are few and far between. Resolving this division is key to fulfilling the hopes and dreams embodied by the women who shaped our Constitution.

Let’s learn from our greats and try to reach a level of representation that is both substantive and inclusive. Let us strive for the intersectional emancipation of women of all origins, regardless of religion, caste, or creed. In his 1949 address to the Constituent Assembly, Ammu Swaminathan responded to claims of historical gender injustice by saying that “the Indian people framed their Constitution and granted rights to women on equal terms with all other citizens of the country.” In 2020, it is time for us to transcend a de jure understanding of these rights and moving towards their substantive update.

Reshma Arif is a lawyer and executive member of Guild for Service, New Delhi.

The opinions expressed are personal.

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