One result of the recent Delhi rape tragedy has been the impetus it has given to the demand for expediting the Women’s Reservation Bill. It is a mistake to connect the two issues. The general attitude of Indian males towards women is deplorable. It needs to be rectified. But it is a grievous error to conclude that such reform would result from giving women reservation in parliament. The two issues, women’s reservation and excesses against women, are unrelated.
Roughly half our population comprises of women. Women are free to vote for woman candidates if they feel that their issues are not adequately promoted. But because of distortions in society women are not free to vote as they should be able to. That is what needs to be corrected. To accomplish it will take time. Meanwhile it is desirable that more women may sit in the legislatures. That is the rationale for the Women’s Reservation Bill.
The lapses by governments in dealing with excesses against women are committed not by men but by politicians. And there is nothing to distinguish women politicians from their male counterparts when it comes to dealing with crimes against women.
However to realize increased representation of women would it be better to reserve constituencies for them or have the Election Commission order political parties to reserve an appropriate quota for women candidates in all elections? By reserving certain seats for women there could be injustice to voters of a particular constituency. There might be a most suitable male candidate in that constituency but denied to voters because of the reserved seat.
Because governments have been as guilty as males in dealing with excesses committed against women there is growing sentiment that women’s reservation in parliament would provide a suitable remedy. Whatever the merits or otherwise about reservation for women in parliament, the issue should not be confused with redressing excesses against women.
The lapses by governments in dealing with excesses against women are committed not by men but by politicians. And there is nothing to distinguish women politicians from their male counterparts when it comes to dealing with crimes against women. After entering politics women tend to behave as reprehensibly as men while dealing with excesses against women. They tend to see everything through the prism of political expediency.
It started with Indira Gandhi. Many decades ago one woman, Maya Tyagi, was paraded naked through the streets. Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister partially justified the act by stating that Maya Tyagi was of dubious character. As if her character was at all relevant to the nature of the crime committed against her! Keeping up that tradition Miss Mamata Banerjee more recently dismissed rape cases in her state as “concocted events”. Inspired by her leader perhaps even more recently her party MP Ms. Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar implied that the Park Street rape victim was a sex worker by describing the alleged rape as a “misunderstanding between a lady and her client.”
The conduct of UP Chief Minister Miss Mayawati was no different. She dismissed the rape allegation against Rural Development Minister Mr. Daddu Prasad as 'false and baseless'. Like her West Bengal counterpart the UP Chief Minister also described the charge of rape against the minister as the result of a “conspiracy to defame both him and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) government”. That was not all. Miss Mayawati only belatedly was compelled by opposition criticism to Charge sheet her BSP MLA Mr. Purshottam Naresh Dwiwedi for allegedly raping a 17-year-old Dalit girl in Banda. A jailor and four policemen had been suspended in connection with that case.
So it might be seen that women in politics have as much to answer for as men. By all means judge the issue of the Women’s Reservation Bill on its merits. It should not in any way be bracketed with crimes against women. The record suggests that the two issues are unrelated.
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