Women’s Reservation — what do you think?

I know the intentions are right, this probably is long overdue; yet, I am sceptical of the bill. Who will benefit?

I had a ringside view of the local body elections in the late 90s, in which the quota was implemented.

Unfortunately, most of those filling the quotas were wives/daughters/sisters/kin of party members. They were not even equipped to answer simple questions. In the council meetings, after being elected, they were dressed for a carnival and sat around wide-eyed (hopefully, this has changed).

The other women who contested/won were doing so on merit; and would have done so, regardless of quota.

I am well-versed with all the arguments supporting gender-based reservation. In theory and principle I agree with everything. But, I’ve seen that true empowerment of women happens only with education. AND only when the men in the family are groomed to accept the importance of productive women (as against reproductive).

It is a great move, indeed, that the RS has passed the bill. But what sense does it make, if the elected member ends up being the CM’s daughter or the some petty official’s wife? Or worse still, someone like a Mayawati – what has she done for Dalits or women?

 What’s your take?

Below is the note I wrote for my mag on Women’s Day – my thoughts on the reservation are only marginally different from those on IWD.

I’ve always had mixed views on Women’s Day. I not only enjoy my ‘for women’ privileges, I often expect it. I like to be treated special because I am a woman; BUT, if I am being discriminated against based on  my sex, I would just as quickly grab a musket.
The whole idea of women’s liberation and feminism finding a platform in a Women’s Day is what makes me uncomfortable. I demand and will work towards equal pay and opportunities, that doesn’t mean I am unappreciative of a door being held open for me.
Yes, there are women around the world – the majority of us in fact – who do not have half our opportunities or chances; Women who will settle for one day in a year without spousal-abuse or bone-breaking labour, and maybe a ‘thank you’ or ‘sorry’ for all their hardships.
But the problem with these ‘days’, hijacked by global organisations with limitless funding, is that those that need to be celebrated and helped are the least affected by all this rhetoric.
Just like most of you reading this, I can fight my battles in society and at home – because we have been empowered by education. How many girl children have that empowerment? Are they being groomed to be women who can pick their battles, fight their wars?
Millions of dollars are invested in portals and brochures; five star lodgings and first class travel of bureaucrats;  media campaigns and publicity stunts. I’d rather that those millions go into building schools, training teachers, paying families to keep their little girls out of the labour force… UN-led (or any other such toothless organisation) bureaucratic jamboree doesn’t make women’s day for me.
Woman Today writers and contributors however think differently. We have some strong advocacy inside. I agree with all the points raised, but the women who broke down barriers, climbed greater heights, and turned the world on its head didn’t do it because of a day dedicated to them. They only did it because they dedicated everyday to EDUCATION.
Pay for the education of one girl child – there is no better way to celebrate our sex! Happy Women’s Day.
About

Umm Oviya + Nilah = Mother of Oviya + Nilah. Because in the Arab world a woman is first addressed as bint X (daughter of X) and then once she has a son (Y) she is Umm Y. I am not sexist, so don't mind surrendering my identity to my daughters.

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14 comments on “Women’s Reservation — what do you think?
  1. Ramya says:

    India is an evolving democracy. While I agree that the first ever election was a sham, with ‘panchpathi’s’ ruling instead of their wife, things have come a long way since then.
    The second time round, there were more women (in Tamil Nadu at least) who turned out to be dynamic leaders of panchayats, taking bold decisions, leaving the husband behind at home. As for the third election, the women had come a really long way from hiding behind their husbands or their saree pallus. Again, in Tamil Nadu. They have organised themselves into a nearly unionised set up; they run their panchayats well; articulate greivances; make representations to rulers and do it all themselves. Admittedly, there are those who continue to be black sheep.
    But, it’s not as if our patriarchal ruling establishment is as pure as the driven snow! :)

    The thing with 33 per cent reservation is that, yes, the wives/daughters of chief minsiters, MLAs and MPs might be the only ones nominated. As is with the men.

    But again, with my faith in an evolving democracy, I’m willing to bet that over time, it will become better regulated.. the distribution fairer; eventually be inclusive of all segments that must be represented in polity. Representing women will bring to the fore the issues relating to that sex that are begging to be addressed. Not immediately. That would be a miracle. Eventually. That would be inevitable.

    • UmmON says:

      definitely not in support of patriarchal ruling! just worried that reservations will not serve any purpose, if women without ‘political links’ are not empowered to contest.
      take amul or lijjat or grameen — reservation didn’t do it for them. it was societal/family involvement. it was individual vision. how do we achieve that?
      as i said, i am being very sceptical for what it will achieve in the here and now. but i totally accept your point that in an evolving democracy, it will help bring about positive change in the long run.

  2. Your post is really interesting. I wasn’t aware of the status of the women who took the seats. I assumed it was merit based, and not just the relatives of party members. That is certainly not an advancement––it’s just a facade. Anyway, we’ll certainly discuss more soon.

    • UmmON says:

      i wouldn’t go as far as to call it a facade. it’s just that without an overall change in attitude, and having more men onboard this decision, it will not have the desired effect.
      Refer to Ramya’s comment above. She is a senior journo in India, and has seen some encouraging change in attitudes in the last 10 years… she sees something positive in all this, so I’m going to temper my cynicism.
      My experiences are a bit dated.
      I’ve always had reservations on reservations. Simply because, if the ‘unreserved’ are not aware enough, and the reserved are not dedicated enough, things can go pretty bad.

  3. Mala Balaji says:

    According to me any step taken for women empowerment is better than no step taken. It is true tho that initially it might turn out 2 b just a sham.. but am sure with time,power will fall on d right hands.. 2 what extent it is gonna b effective only time will tell..

  4. Sindhu says:

    I too have reservations on the reservation bill. I feel we should not be given favours becuase of our gender…we should rather earn it. But if this is the only way women can contribute to the soceity then so be it…

  5. am says:

    Reservation should be done only for those who need it and since those who need it are least likely to benefit from the fruits of reservation, may be one way of doing it is to start reservation right at the prep school, at every city, every village, every State… and cap it with equal inheritance rights for women and men. Make a law, I feel like telling the Indian Parliament, where every woman gets an equal share of her parent’s property. If women are to be empowered, there needs to be a concerted attempt… only political reservation will not help.

  6. Teesu says:

    JUST read this one. Cool idea.

  7. Matriach says:

    with refn to the suggestion of a law to ensure women get an equal share of her parent’s property, why dont we just turn to Kerala where the Matriachal system rules, though diluted today.

  8. Matriarch says:

    matriarchal – cos the society was always led by the women – matri lineal in terms of passage of property an wealth – When you look at property and share in the same, the communities that you speak of almost always have the property split when the daughter is given in marraige – once can call this dowry … the underlying reasoning for the same being that once the girl leaves the house, she has no further”connections” with her past life and hence should be given her share a the time of marraige.

  9. Pramod says:

    I don’t think India needs reservation for women anywhere.
    I am a Keralite and have lived in Bengal for a large part of my life and I have seen the status that women enjoy in both these states. But why aren’t they dominating the legislature in both the states? I think it is a matter of choice, women in India just don’t do enough to bring themselves to the forefront. They no doubt rule the homes, but when they step out – they seem to be happy allowing the men to take charge. It is not a lack of opportunities in my view, but a lack of drive. My wife does not subscribe to this view, I know !

    • UmmON says:

      There are places in India, the large expanse in fact, where women need more help to be empowered. But reservation won’t do the trick. And Pramod, in the 2 ‘great’ states of India, women’s empowerment was negated by marxist madness?

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