RESERVATION for WOMEN – Is it the IDEAL PATH for EMPOWERMENT?
Indian society, since time immemorial, has granted it’s women a higher status over its men. In fact the status granted to women was elevated above human levels. Obviously! Because what else can justify the fact that they were restricted within the domestic boundaries of life, denied any role in decision making, their dignity being stripped off every now and then, both in the literal and symbolic sense; and they were expected to endure all of these with patience and obedience!
Challenges to Women’s Participation In Politics
Exceptions, however, have always existed. There were several women (Example Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi became the first Indian female physician in 1887) who did not accept this dictation on how they should live their lives.
While the orthodox minds termed them the rebels, numerous women found in them, their role models. Learning and getting inspired by one another, women began to participate in several fields during the British era, primarily with the emergence of new cities. But for a long time, their backgrounds were restricted to elite and modern families only.
There was a dire need now, for an institution which could attain authority and propagate the ideas of gender equality, among other things, backing it by efficient laws. Independence of the country led to the establishment of this source of authority, i.e. the Constitution and the governmental machinery of India, though still, we are a developing nation.
Pic source : womenempowermentindia.com
India has been blessed with a body that, despite having an overwhelming majority of men, decided in favor of giving women equal voting rights, at a time when most developed countries had failed to do so.
Our Constitution hit at various social evils, for instance, the Dowry Prohibition Act,1961 which aimed at rooting out the practice, it is one of the leading causes of women’s distress.
At various points of time, several legislations were made to promote greater economic, political and social equality, The Equal Remuneration Act,1976 being an example of the same. However, most people would agree to what S.B. Anthony has said,” There will never be complete equality until women themselves help to make laws and elect lawmakers.” While women got the right to elect lawmakers, what remained was their equal participation in lawmaking.
Indian women did not fail to understand this and have voiced their demands for the greater representation in legislation. What concerns me and in turn has compelled me to write this article is that women have put forth their demand for a reservation of seats for women in both Executive and Legislative branches of the government.
Women’s Political Participation in India an Agenda For Empowerment
The 73rd Amendment of the Indian Constitution,1992 provided for a reservation of one-third of seats for women, in all Panchayati Raj institutions and urban local bodies.
This was seen as a great move in the process of women empowerment in India, especially at the grass root levels, where women who, until now, did not enjoy any significant role in the decision making even within their households, were now going to decide for the entire community.
While this was a progressive step towards the goal of women empowerment given the rural context where mindsets are stultifying for women, the next demand came in the form of ‘The Women’s Reservation Bill’ or ‘ The Constitution ( 108th Amendment) Bill,2008 which aimed at attaining a reservation of 33% of seats for women in the greatest authority of law-making in the country, the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of the Parliament of India. This reservation was to be extended to State Assemblies as well.
Importance of Women Empowerment |WHY ONE SHOULD ANSWER THE HEADING IN THE NEGATIVE |
I, being a modern day woman, disagree with this idea of women empowerment. The basic essence of the concept of feminism and women empowerment is the fact that women and men deserve Equality alike.
While it is an undeniable fact that women in the Indian society have been deprived of a level playing ground for long, the rectification can never be made through the elevation of the ground for them now for this comes with more negative consequences than positive( the rapid rise of segregating caste politics ever since reservations were made under the Mandal Commission Act).
The most basic logic behind this is that the women who suffered earlier aren’t generally the ones who will benefit from this, to begin with. The more important explanation, however, is that real empowerment can never be achieved by giving one group extra. If all we keep doing is looking back at the past grievances, we are preventing the society from moving over the evil.
It might as well prove beneficial in certain cases, but it hampers the pace of progress because what we come back to is an unequal ground all over again. Empowerment in the real sense would be to provide this half of the social freedom from constraints, an equal access to resources such as education and proper health facilities and the freedom to choose for themselves.
Perhaps a more effective implementation of laws concerning prevention of rape (Section 376 IPC) , molestation(Section 354 IPC) etc. would serve a greater purpose in strengthening women. But above all, it is a change in mentality that is the need of the hour and will ultimately lead to a more equal society.
Reservation Bill | Why Should We Ignore It
There have been numerous occasions of demand articulation for reservation and “One third now” has been a popular slogan of groups demanding reservation.
After having expressed my opinion on the idea of empowerment and why reservation doesn’t seem to be the best way to me, I would definitely like to mention that while the Rajya Sabha passed the bill amidst strong opposition on 9th March 2010, the Lok Sabha didn’t even have a voting on it at any point of time and finally the bill lapsed after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2014.
Women, this should trigger an impulse in us to build ourselves up as a collective. Let us not request or demand anymore. Let’s make sure we deserve to be wherever we are while we compromise on nothing less than that.
Let’s endeavor and become a voice that can’t be ignored or overridden while making important decisions that concern us as much as they concern the other half of the citizenry.
Let ’s become a voice on grounds only of merit so nobody can question our presence! And once we hold a position of authority, let us remember to take progressive steps in the path to the genuine empowerment of women, among others.