The Women's Reservation Bill
A policy-decision, detached from reality.

A thorn in the foot

The 'Women's Reservation Bill' proposes to set aside 33% of the seats in Parliament to women.

The issue of reservations has a been a thorn in the side of every government since Independence. Why? Because, reservation is a fundamentally wrong principle. And in order to implement a fundamentally wrong principle, one has to devise numerous irrational laws and devices to cloak the ugly core of the principle. A lie has to be covered with other lies. That's why reservation is a thorn.

What does one do when a thorn is stuck in one's foot? He plucks it out. And when are we plucking out the thorn of reservations? At present, it only looks like the policy-makers of the nation are only bent upon driving the thorn further into the foot.

The idea of reservations originated first in attempts to correct historical wrongs. That it doesn't accomplish that in any way, only aggravates differences between different 'groups' of people is a totally different issue. The concept of reservations is now being expanded to include current perceptions of injustice to certain sections of society, more precisely that section which is made of people of a particular sex, women.

A victory for feminism

Why should seats be reserved in Parliament for women? So that women can be represented? Whoever thinks that only women can represent the needs of women the best? Parliament is not intended as a demographic mirror of society, that all sections of society get a fair share of representation there. Parliament is the place where the laws of the land are made and the future direction of the nation decided. The half-witted idea that only a 'woman can truly stand for her compatriots' stands at the root of this corruption of an already corrupted idea-reservations. Note that the BJP is supporting this Bill in accordance with its policy on Women. And predictably, its policy stems from one Sanskrit word-'Narishakti', without any consideration as to why women really stand oppressed today. The BJP's introductory remark in the 'Empowerment of Women' section of Chapter 9 of the Manifesto...

"It is not enough to talk about removing discrimination against women and establishing gender equality. We need to create new mechanisms for the social, political and economic advancement of women as also to generate social awareness on gender issues. One such mechanism is empowerment, including empowerment through enactment of laws."
makes things very clear. If women have been suppressed for ages and their rights forcibly denied and privileges taken away from them, the solution doesn't lie in sending some women to Parliament by precondition.

What really matters is a candidate's merit, not sex.

The women supporting the bill, have made a complete bromide of the issue. All of them stand for 'the liberated woman of the 90s', 'women's rights', and other such overused terms and cliches. Not one of them seems to gauge the harm such a bill would do to the actual Womens' Movement. That women have been suppressed for long, through the course of history is true. That they continue to be victims of harassment, torture and long hours of labour is true.

But is this how we fight injustice? Is this our retort to deeds of evil?

The fact is that a section of society has been unduly subjected to atrocities. The fact that people in that section are made of women doesn't change things one bit. Atrocities are atrocities. And they are not going to be stopped by sending a proportion of them to Parliament. What we need is individualism. A culture of respect for an individual irrespective of gender, based on the merit of what he or she has to say.

A candidate in an election is to be judged by the content of his ideas, his record of implementing them (in previous tenures), and by his character. It doesn't matter whether the candidate is a 'he' or a 'she'. If oppressive conditions prevail during elections, pressurizing a woman candidate to withdraw from the race, it a matter of law, to be considered by the Election Commissioner. The solution in such cases would just lie in ensuring fair and free election processes.

What should actually be done?

Education and removal of old 'anti-women' concepts and strict law enforcement can make a woman walk confidently on the streets. And achieve what she wants without help or interference from any external sources. If such conditions ensue, why will women ask for reservations?

Why should considerations of gender enter democratic processes? Michael S. Berliner says about racism...

"...Racism is the notion that one’s race determines one’s identity. It is the belief that one’s convictions, values and character are determined not by the judgment of one’s mind but by one’s anatomy or “blood.” This view causes people to be condemned (or praised) based on their racial membership. In turn, it leads them to condemn or praise others on the same basis. In fact, one can gain an authentic sense of pride only from one’s own achievements, not from inherited characteristics."
A similar outlook is the basis for discrimination of women in Indian society. Sexual discrimination against women stems from the notion that one’s sex determines one’s identity. The outlook is that a man is superior to a woman, not because of considerations of merit of thought, but by anatomical considerations. And the enforcement of such belief-systems upon women is carried out by persuasion, blackmail, threat of physical violence and sometimes direct bodily or psychological injury. So fighting such stupid beliefs should form the core of those want to uplift conditions of women.

Yet the proponents of the Womens' Reservation Bill propose to fight injustice with injustice. They are feeding the prejudices of the patriarchal sections of society by supporting such a bill. They want to plant puppets like Rabri Devi in 182 seats in Parliament and gloat over their victory in their struggle for 'equal opportunities' with men.

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A simple question. A straight forward answer.

Murli Manohar Joshi's views on Women's liberation



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