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I Don”t Support 33% Reservation For Women In Legislatures And I Am Not Sexist

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By Karmanye Thadani:

I am a man and at the same time, a firm believer in gender equality. I celebrated the burqa ban in France (I know this stand is VERY controversial) and Saudi women’s defying the law prohibiting them from driving (and no, I am not anti-Muslim). I celebrated the Indian Army inducting its first female jawan, and I have co-authored a book on gender discrimination in the field of sport.

Then, why is it that I don’t support the proposed 33% reservation in our legislatures? It is simply because it amounts to patronizing women. Women need to prove their worth, as they have done time and again, and not ask for doles.

When I go to cast my vote, I would like to know the educational qualifications and work experience of the candidates, as well as their proposed mandate in terms of law-making and formulation of policies, and that alone would decide who I cast my vote for, not the caste, religion, lingual affiliation or gender. How would reserving seats for women, often depriving more competent men (and for heavens’ sake, this is not to say that men in general are more competent than women) of an opportunity to deliberate in the Parliament House, help improve the functioning of the supreme law-making body of our country? How will it prevent female foetecide or dowry, when a woman becoming Prime Minister or President, leave alone Chief Minister or Governor of many a state, couldn’t?

The Parliament is a law-making body and it does not form the executive. In other words, it does not implement laws, like the police or bureaucracy does, and a bias is actually relevant in implementation, since no law discriminating against women will be enacted (as it would be horribly politically incorrect and would in any case be struck down by the Supreme Court for being violative of the right to equality enshrined in our constitution), nor does it come out with policies of a non-statutory nature, and our statute-book is already full of laws prohibiting perhaps all the major social evils that affect women, be it female foetecide, dowry or domestic violence, and as many women themselves concede, some of these laws can be misused against men. Then, what purpose will an increased number of women in the Parliament serve?

I am not strongly averse to reservations for women in Gram Panchayats or municipalities where they can ensure that civic amenities specific to women (such as gynecological facilities), particularly from weaker economic backgrounds, are provided (though practically, very often it’s their husbands who wield the real power), but for the Parliament (or even state legislatures), this call for reservation seems nothing more than a crank demand that will do more harm than good.

Let’s hope we get more and more educated, humanistic, intelligent and committed MPs in the years to come, as also reduced instances of discrimination and violence against women, but the means to neither, at least as I see it, lie in reserving seats for women in the Parliament.

 [box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: The author is a freelance writer based in New Delhi and has co-authored two short books, namely ‘Onslaughts on Free Speech in India byMeans of Unwarranted Film Bans’ and ‘Women and Sport in India and the World: ASocio-Legal Perspective’. He is currently working as a research associate in the Centre for Civil Society (CCS), a reputed Delhi-based public policy think-tank. The views expressed in this article are personal. To read his other posts, click here.[/box]

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  1. fathima

    suppose i am a muslim french woman. i want to wear burqa. should i have the freedom to wear it or not?

  2. Salma

    Although I am not a subject-matter expert on this topic, I think you have got some basic issues mixed up here. First of all, reservation is a form of affirmative action intended for promoting equality. This is its fundemental purpose. How it is legislated or taken advantage of or used is the second part of the debate. But to imply that it is a means to substitute a better option with a uneducated/unprofessional/underdeveloped/less competent option or that it is a means of a dole out for less worthy candidates is simply untrue and inaccurate. Different forms of affirmative action have been in effect in countries ever since the 1960’s. Whenever there is a recognition that a part of the society is being left behind, out of contributing to the development of society and country, laws relating to affirmative action have been enacted and put into action- so that that anomoly may be corrected. This is not to say that the intention is for less educated or less worthy candidates to be given preference over worthy ones. When the terms of the environment are equal for all- I agree, handouts or preferences of any nature are unfair- however, in a country where the girl child is even discriminated against in being given food, where public molestation of women occur in the full blare of media, where sports or any form of physical exercise and support for health for women is given the lowest preference, where the easiest way to attack a women in public, is simply to imply something negative of her character ie in a country where the social fabric , economic situation, access to education and health is stacked well against the female race, I would think that affirmative action would be the need of the hour- esp in areas related to governance, so that those women who do have the education and/or leadership to take on these issues can kindly find a place to be heard and bring forth these issues at the national level.
    Btw, the burqa ban in France and lack of driving rights for women in Saudi have nothing to do with gender equality. I think you do a great disservice to the concept of gender equality when you connect all these topics. As someone who currently lives in Europe and has grown up in Saudi Arabia, its quite clear to me that these are totally different issues which are steeped in culture and power politics. I would think ways and means to deal with them, are totally different than what is intended by affirmative actions such as reservation.

    1. Karmanye Thadani

      Thanks for the comment, Salma. I am not questioning the objective of affirmative action as basically being to promote incompetence. I have myself recommended reservations for women in sports tribunals in a book I have written, for there, I believe that can genuinely help change things for the better. You have yourself said that there is rampant discrimination against the fairer sex in India, right from the foetus stage, and that is indeed very true and sad, but my question remains – how will reserving seats in the Parliament help improve the situation? The Parliament only makes laws and we already have enough laws on paper against such evils. It’s for the bureaucrats and police personnel to effectively implement them. Yes, the Minister of Women and Child Development has always been a woman and I welcome that. And it’s not like we don’t have women in our political circles. From Jayalalitha to Mamta to Sheila Dikshit to Vasundhara Raje to Sushma Swaraj, we have many prominent female politicians. Women have held key ministries and India has had a woman as Prime Minister and Sonia too could have achieved that status. That hasn’t solved our social evils oppressing women. This is certainly no solution.

  3. Rigya Singh

    I support most of your views here. I feel the same about it and some other matters. But the same argument can be applied to reservation in the field of education or reserving the first coach of the metro for women. Until we cannot change the mentality of the society towards women, we need these safeguards. Nevertheless, I would be happy if women could be elected on basis of merit and would not need these reserved seats.

    P.S. I welcomed the Burqa ban too. I think that women who want to cover their head should see how it is to live without it and then decide whether it is easier or not.

  4. bosco pulai

    i don’t support the reservation ideas for women in any sector or field. I believe in the equality of human beings. there is no one superior or inferior. Every one should have equal stand in society. And all can achieve all that one wants and dream. The women have got the psychic problems. They think and consider themselves to be weak in every field. ..whether it be in family , friends circle,and anywhere. And the very demand for reservation by the women is the mere fact that they are still not equal to men.

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