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.
Â [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]