“Women’s representation should be beyond representation in Parliament. Democracy should be adopted, as a way of life society itself should be democratized. The patriarchal mentality of the masses should first be liberalized so that they themselves will vote for women candidates rather than being forced to do so.”
For the past six years, women’s activists have been demanding the passage of the women’s reservation bill, which ensures that women will represent 33% of parliament. To many this bill seems a landmark in the process of women empowerment in the country. To add to this piece of information, every PM since then has assured women’s groups that the bill will be passed in the nest parliament session. Despite being a hard-core feminist I am dead against this bill since it is essentially undemocratic.
Moreover, it is about time that we learn from past experience that reservation is not the most effective way to bring about equality. The reservation policy for backward castes, classes and tribes in our country have not yet delivered the desired results. Even decades after they were first introduced into the system. It is widely believed that bill has not become an act yet since majority of the parliamentarians are male. This is highly possible, but on close examination, one realizes that the bill does contain serious loopholes.
The bill contains two major clauses that are not in tandem with democracy. Firstly, 33% of parliament means 181 seats approximately will be reserved for women. This means that 181 other male MPs will not be able to contest elections, depriving them of their right to contest elections. Secondly, the bill also suggests a rotation policy of seats, i.e. a male MP cannot hold a seat for more than two consecutive terms. This disallows the electorate to reward or punish their representative for his work.
Moreover, in a country where corruption is rampant, it is highly possible that female relatives of influential politicians will come to power, meaning power will not be transferred to the MP, only the title will be. Some suggest that political parties should be compelled to make sure that 1/3rd of their candidates are women; this in turn is a restriction of free functioning of parties.
Representation of women is a positive step towards women empowerment, but it should not be done at the cost of democracy. Also, representation does not necessarily result in betterment of the represented. Dalits are a classic example of this condition. Mayawati, who is a pro-Dalit leader and now the Chief Minister of UP, is doing next to nothing for the Dalits. Instead, she promises construction of a modern airport and the world’s tallest building in her state; which in no way will change the lives of the many thousand Dalits in the state.
Therefore, women’s empowerment should be much more than just their representation in the Parliament. Democracy should be adopted, as a way of life society itself should be democratized. The patriarchal mentality of the masses should first be liberalized so that they themselves will vote for women candidates rather than being forced to do so.