Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Giving Women's Empowerment a vote in the 2014 Elections

The country has started to vote, since yesterday. While I was watching news in the afternoon, a news piece informed me that a whooping 86% voters in Tripura decided to wear the voter's ink and a staggering 76% in the state of Assam. This displays the will of the voter to bring in a change.
Since the election dates have been announced, every political party is seen endorsing different schools of thought, most of which lay stress on development and women's empowerment. Isn't it funny and strange that a country that has 49% women voters is still struggling to promise safety to its women?
In the ten years of the UPA rule, the condition of women has only deteriorated and that shows their seriousness to the cause. And Rahul Gandhi in his first ever TV interview laid tall claims of how they had made the women of the country fearless by bringing in gender equal changes. After the Nirbhaya incident shook the country and the world, UPA did have a chance to mend it ways. It had a golden opportunity to get up from a deep slumber of more than eight years, when the crimes against women only kept doubling, and they were sleeping over it. 

The social media revolution enabled many women like me to actively participate in the call for change by the UPA government, which of course was a foul cry, by putting forth my suggestions for a safer country for women. Of all those suggestions received and recorded, The Justice Verma committee  was constituted to suggest amendments to the Criminal law for quicker trial and enhanced punishment of criminals accused of sexual crimes against women. While we hopefully waited with bated breath, trusting the law makers, the government passed an ordinance that blatantly refuted most of the recommendations made by the Justice Verma committee, instead passing an own version. The 33 % women's reservation bill although passed by the upper house, never saw the light of the day in the lower house. What is appalling is that not a single rupee from the 1,000 crore Nirbhaya fund was spent. 
Meanwhile, the other parties that have been harping on women's empowerment like AAP, saw its law minister conducting midnight raids and harassing African women, since he claimed that he had a tip-off on drug and prostitution racket operating in the area. The minister didn't have any proofs on paper and his actions had to be questionable since he flouted the rule by arresting a woman after 9 pm, which the constitution of India doesn't allow. 
Mamata Banerjee's TMC has repeatedly blamed rape victims and her state is notoriously famous for crimes against women. Parties like Samajwadi Party in UP, a state with the highest number of crimes against women, has promised to "tone down" the rape laws if they are brought into power. 
In this midst of this confusing conundrum of chaos, when I had almost made up my mind to vote for NOTA or none of the above option on April 10th, the BJP manifesto was released. It pressed for the constitution of the Uniform Civil code which has been lying in the lurch for ages. And that made think over, my choice of candidate in these elections. Congress, BJP or the mountain of lies, AAP or NOTA?

Bringing in a UCC would imply granting of equal and fair rights to every citizen of India, irrespective of sex, caste, colour or creed, and especially to women, who still do not have a choice in matters concerning property or the dissolution of a marriage. 
What needs to be seen is, how effectively will this be put into practice? And that shouldn't mean a Hindutva code of conduct, but a code of conduct for an Indian, of the Indian.
33 percent reservation for women in parliament to give the women of the country a louder voice in governance and national campaign to save the girl child Beti Bacha, Beti Padhao campaign are its other promises. The party said that if comes to power it will formulate a comprehensive strategy, incorporating the best practices from its various state programmes which will support and encourage a positive attitude amongst families towards the girl child. "Programme for women healthcare emphasizing on the domains of nutrition and pregnancy - with emphasis on rural, Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes are also in the cards. They have promised to enable women with training and skills - setting up dedicated women Indian Technical Institutes (ITIs), women wings in other ITIs, to provide more employment opportunities to women. 
Again, many or all of these only sound good, them becoming reality is a utopian idea. That takes me back to 2009, when I had placed my confidence in Congress and voted for them as a first time voter. Rest is history as you know!

While Congress banters around its old unfulfilled promises, and AAP, nowhere in the fray, with a shoot and scoot attitude and lack of experience in governance, and a marked man Kejriwal openly supporting khaps, and at the receiving end of punches, slaps, kicks and ink attacks I feel like a beggar and not a chooser. A non-BJP, non- Congress alternative is the third front which is nothing more than a movement of prime-ministerial ambitions. For a voter like me, who is grappling with safety issues everyday against herself and members of her race, what needs to be seen who amongst these would strive to throw the book at perpetrators of sexual crimes and truly empower the woman of India, unshackling her from the agnipriksha she has been subjected to, since a long time. All thanks to the misogyny in the social structure, that has left her with little or no say in the formulation of laws governing her life. That might tell you, why NOTA still seems to be the most viable option for voters like me, who are not able to identify themselves with the schools of thought of any of the political parties fighting it out in the general elections. 

1 comment:

Roshni AaMom said...

It is sad that there is not one political party or individual who has a progressive view when it comes to women's issues!