Empowerment: For Women & By Women


The Prime Minister steered the Women’s Reservations Bill with great aplomb, even though this is a promise of delayed gratification, atleast the bill has been tabled and passed. This is more than any other government could do in the past. To a limited extent, it has helped the BJP shore up its image with the women voters for post Manipur and post the wrestlers allegations of sexual harrassment by a BJP MP. And while we give credit to the BJP for ensuring that the bill gets a lease of life, it would be important to also take a look at the regional, pro Mandal parties for the bill was unanimously by all the parties except Assaddudin Owaisi’s outfit. This was not the case in the past. When the JD(U), RJD, SP etc were lead by the likes of Sharad Yadav, Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav then they had opposed the bill, with some MPs even tearing it up on camera. Sharad Yadav had famously remarked that the bill would only help `parkati’ women ie short haired, modern women. This ofcourse was not the real issue, the real issue was a fear that the seats considered to be male bastions would now have to be shared with the women. There was a real fear amongst the male MPs who saw an erosion in their seats of power. But today, with an increasing awareness amongst the women of their own capabilities and empowerment the male leadership of these parties has been forced to acknowledge their role and also the power of the woman voter. It is the change in society and mindset outside parliament that found reflection in the near unanimous vote that passed the historic bill. The change came from bottom up and made its presence felt in parliament, the highest seat of decision making in democratic India. Also, the above mentioned caste based pro Mandal parties are now being lead by a more progressive leadership. As the head of the JD(U), Nitish Kumar has been reaching out to the woman voter with his bicycles for schoolgirls and prohibition drives while both Tejaswi and Akhilesh Yadav have been very gender sensitive and progressive in their politics which are a far cry from the `boys will be boys’ attitude of the preceeding generation. Hence, while we celebrate and laud the MPs for passing this historic bill, let us also acknowledge the role of the reformers, NGOS and activists working tirelessly outside these hallowed walls of parliament who have worked hard to ensure that the woman gets her due place – be it at home, in the office from boardrooms to courtrooms – and now – within the legislative chambers.