PATNA: Members of Women's Political Forum on Monday discussed how to ensure their increased participation in politics in order to have more say in policy matters.
Deliberating over gender parity and women empowerment, the state members of Women's Political Forum at a meeting held at Bihar Industries Association (BIA) decided to prepare a blueprint in this regard and to send it to CM Nitish Kumar for consideration and implementation. Their discussion was focused on how women are often considered inferior to men in politics, which is still a male-dominated field.
Transgender activist Reshma Prasad said if Indian society considers women equal to men, the women reservation bill should be passed by Parliament. She also demanded 50% reservation for women instead of 33% proposed in the bill.
The meeting referred to the Inter-parliamentary Union list published on January 1 this year. The data of 193 countries have been compiled in the list in terms of women representation in legislature. India is ranked 148th as only 11.8% wom
India Valay Singh Rai @gaonwalah
So, just how many questions are asked on children's concerns and problems? An analysis done by HAQ Centre for child rights unmasks the pathetic reality: In 2015, only five per cent of the questions in the two houses in Parliament were about them.
A total of 27,879 questions were asked in Parliament in 2015, out of which only 1,421 were related to children. Do you reckon that 44 crore children and their issues can be justly covered by just 1,400 questions? I certainly don't think that's possible.
Let's look at what kind of issues were raised through this measly number of questions. The report says that "education continues to be the issue that draws most attention. 652 questions or 46 per cent of the child-related questions were on education.
The issues that have drawn attention are the drop-out rates and out-of-school children, drinking water and toilet facilities in schools. It is as if addressing the education sector alone will address all child rights related issues. It seems that for MPs all other issues take a back seat, including the malaise of the unregulated, and exorbitant private education sector.
Even though according to a government study more than half of India's children face abuse of one kind or another, the report found that only 24 questions spoke of child abuse, child sexual abuse and the Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. And a single question pertained to "victim compensation". This is when the government was in the process of setting up a Victim Compensation Fund (which finally happened in October 2015).
Calling violence against women a manifestation of inequality, representatives from the five southern states of India stressed upon the need to have higher representation of women in various sectors.
After 15 years, the Centre has unveiled the draft national policy for women 2016, which aims to empower women in fields such as education, healthcare and economy, among others. In a consultation meet held on Wednesday, representatives from Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, Telangana and Tamil Nadu put forth suggestions and recommendations on the draft policy. The policy is expected to be finalised by July-end once stakeholders from all regions submit their suggestions.
Strong views were raised by many on the poor representation of women in state assemblies and Parliament. According to reports, there are only 62 women MLAs in the five southern states. Representatives were unanimous in demanding 33 per cent reservation for women in the assemblies and Parliament.
Favourable outcomes in literacy, life expectancy and political awareness do not translate into political representation for women in Kerala state:
As the 14th legislative assembly of Kerala starts functioning, Kerala is yet to get its first woman chief minister. In an assembly with 140 MLAs and with a demography of 1,084 females per 1,000 men, the number of women MLAs in the state has never crossed to double digits.
Kerala takes a lot of pride in the high literacy, high life expectancy, and the political awareness of its female population. Despite this, the representation of women in the state assembly and Parliament continues to be poor. In every general election, Kerala sends 20 MP’s to Parliament, and the state has 9 seats in the Rajya Sabha. But since independence, only nine women - Annie Mascarene, Suseela Gopalan, Bhargavi Thankappan, Savithri Lakshmanan, AK Premajam, P Sathi Devi, CS Sujatha, PK Sreemathy, and TN Seema - have represented the state in both houses of Parliament. The shameful numbers make one question whether gender equality in Kerala exists only in statistics.
Sohini Paul and Anupma Mehta write about the reasonable success of reserved seats (33%) to get women into local government in India. However, a bill to reserve one third of the seats in the lower house of the national parliament (Lok Sabha) has not been passed. Sohini and Anupma conclude that more women are needed to create a critical mass for transformational change in governance. This transformational change is required to empower women and to address gender-based violence. They argue that quality education is required for women, including capacity building by the parties.
There is no denying the fact that greater participation of women in the political process would be a pre-condition for their economic and social emancipation. However, even though a significantly large number of women vote in the country, yet only a few of them assume the reins of power. Paradoxically, though women have held the posts of President and Prime Minister as well as Chief Ministers of various states in India, the country ranks 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament, as per the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2012.
To remedy the low participation of women electors, India in 1994 established quotas (reservations) vide the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in local governments for women. The Women’s Reservation Bill (108th amendment) has also been introduced in the national Parliament to reserve 33 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats for women, but the bill is yet to be passed. It is believed that though increasing the number of women in national government may not guarantee an impact on governance, a critical mass of women in power can bring about transformation in leadership.
One of the key challenges faced by women is lack of education which hinders their political involvement. We recommend bridging this gap by providing quality education to women in the country. Awareness about their rights and privileges as mentioned in the Constitution can only be ensured once women are appropriately educated. The issue of gender-based violence and provision of safety and security of women should also be addressed on a priority basis to promote gender equality in the social and political arenas. Although the Government of India has initiated the National Mission of Empowerment of Women in 2014 with the broad objective of gender empowerment, the progress of this project is not up to the mark. It is thus imperative to strengthen its functioning and implementation. In addition, there is need for capacity building of prospective women leaders by imparting leadership training to the female members of political parties.
Suhel Seth draws attention to the appalling treatment of women that persists despite the recent success of two women elected as chief ministers in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu:
A country that cannot respect its women in the truest sense loses it civility and this alone must scare us into actually respecting our women and that will only happen if we genuinely feel they are equal. It is not the Indian males' right to bestow equality. It is the right of our women to be equal as they should be and if we can comprehend this, we will all live in a better and more sacred India.
BBC article on swearing-in of Jayaram Jayalalitha as the chief minister of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-32857257
Women’s empowerment is not just a catchphrase to be trotted out by glib politicians and flag-waving feminists. It is an essential contributor in the development of a nation — a fact that is recognised by all governments, especially governments of developing countries, where so many women continue to be trapped in traditional gender roles and are never able to realise their full potential. India does have a raft of laws, policies and schemes to ensure the social, economic, and political uplift of women. Even so, women’s empowerment in this country has been patchy at best, often hamstrung by a range of social, cultural and infrastructural roadblocks.
Shuma highlights issues of male responsibility for contraception; protecting single women; preventing online harassment; and protecting surrogates. However, Shuma points to the lack of attention to sexual assault in marriage.
On female representation in parliament, Shuma notes the many promises that have not been delivered on for the modest goal of 33% reservation:
Critics have been grumbling that the draft policy is nothing but high sounding verbiage, describing it as a regurgitation of standard issue goals for the uplift of women, with no clear roadmap for implementing them. There is, for example, that old promise of 33% reservation of women in Parliament, a promise every government likes to make, but none delivers on. And yes, many of the objectives do carry a tired sense of deja vu. However, just because some goals are regularly articulated does not mean that they are less relevant.