Woman empowerment: should India learn from the Iranian success story?


“Few jobs for the boys” and “Iran polls bring women to the fore”. These two articles caught my attention when I was reading the Sunday times. After reading the articles it took me to two different worlds. ; One where male tyranny still cuts short any aspiration of the women to have equal rights and the other where woman empowerment is rising to higher altitude. These different ‘worlds’ are India and Iran .India once again witnessed protests from various quarters on the probable passing of the women’s reservation bill and Iran elections brought into the limelight the issue of gender empowerment: Zahra Rahnavard became a new symbol of woman power.

The proposed women reservation bill which has been lying on the parliament table for the last 14 years was met by strong opposition once again. This bill guarantees one third seats to women at the state, national and local levels. The bill was first drafted by prime minister H D Dewegowda and introduced on September 12,1996 .The lack of political consensus has kept it in the darkness ever since. This bill was meant to increase the political representation of women in the parliament which hitherto was quite dismal. This bill could add a new chapter to woman empowerment ending years of male dominance gender equality could get the required mileage by the passing of the bill. (Insert> Not required)

Zarah became a new iconic figure In Iran after the elections. She campaigned for her husband and promised that if her spouse was elected then women would be appointed to the cabinet post for the first time and moral policing on women would be banned. This marked the start of a new era where gender disparity would no longer be a word in the Iranian lexicon. ‘Change’ is the word that is echoing in the new generation of political leaders who can fight against any odds.

Indian women have been shown the back door most of the times in politics. There are only 59 women out of 545 elected members in the Lok Sabha. Many political leaders believe that the passing of the bill would further increase discrimination among women as only the elite group would benefit from this .They believe women should make it to the top solely on the basis of merit political insecurity still rules their mind (insert> relevant but inappropriately placed) .They believe that women do not make great leaders .It has been proved time and again that woman are equally competent when it comes to holding positions in the office . Politicians left no stone unturned when they demanded reservation for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the higher educational institutions only for strengthening their vote bank. Mulayam Singh Yadav is of the opinion that the women reservation bill is dangerous for the political leadership of the nation He is the same man who included banning English and computer education as an integral part of his political manifesto. He has 8 male members from his family in his party but there is no representation from the womenfolk. This clearly shows that reservation problems are incubated in the mindset of the people. His is a perfect living example of a patriarchal Indian society where men believe woman should confine themselves to the household. The 33% woman reservation in the Panchayats was a big success story where lacs of Indian women emerged as powerful leaders. Even though the bill was opposed at that time, we can now see the dividends.

The only problem that could crop up would be possible rise of women leaders from the political families. This would defeat the very purpose of the much delayed bill. The political parties should not misuse the bill and fancy nepotism. Deserving candidates should be given the tickets. The bill should not be amended as demanded from the communal sections of the society. Gender bias has always been prevalent in our country. Dowry related deaths,female foeticide, Rape and molestation have always been rampant. Still women are labeled ‘birth machines’ in many parts of our country. Women reservation can be a small solution to the big problem, however, it could open new doors and avenues. A journey of million miles starts with a single step. We Hope this bill can act as a step for bigger opportunities to the Indian women.

Vikash Kumar

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