From Fair Representation In Politics To Equal Pay: Here’s What Women Demand In 2019

Elections are not just about a vote to a party or a leader or choosing a party for a five year term. Elections are about selecting a leader for the progress of the nation keeping the needs of the ‘Janta’ in mind. Every election manifesto must aim to take India from low-middle income country to an upper- middle income country.

We the people of India expect our leader to take the nation to new heights – work towards uplifting the poor, the farmers, improve the infrastructure, make sure every child gets quality education, generate employment and take every necessary step for the betterment of our country. We live in the 21st century, and the needs of our generation are way more than just the basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. In this new era or new India, the ‘Janta’ expects better from their political representatives.

Today, women are contributing in all walks of life whether it’s politics, defense, IT or the medical field –  they have managed to be successful despite all odds. I spoke to a few women to understand what they are expecting out of the upcoming 2019 elections. Some of their views are summed up below:

Safety

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First and foremost demand of every woman from the politicians this election is safety and security. In India, rape is the 4th most common crime against women. On 3rd February 2013, the definition of rape was revised through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. But can revision of the definition change the status of rape in our country? NO! Women feel unsafe while traveling at night. Why is it that parents never ask their sons to come home on time, but they ask their daughters? Well, it’s because they know girls are not safe at night, they know laws are not strict enough to protect them. Women deserve freedom, safety and the right to live their life without the fear of being assaulted.

Eradicate Gender Wage Gap

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Politicians talk about gender equality in their speeches, but are they implementing the same in the society as well? In the year 2013, the gender wage gap in India was estimated to be 24.81% and the female participation in the workforce pushed India in the bottom ten of the list. SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association), found out that the average pay for women construction workers is ₹ 1815 while the average pay for men is ₹ 3842.

Why do we have this disparity for the same amount of work? Women not only face discrimination in wages, they are sometimes not even offered a job owing to the fact they might need a maternity leave in future. Equal wages will not only empower women to be at par with men, but will also benefit our entire economy.

We want equality not only in the books of our constitution, but in real life too.

Treat Marital Rape as a Crime

The UN Population Fund states that more than 2/3rd of married women in India aged between 15 to 49 have been beaten, raped or forced to provide sex. The Indian law does not treat martial rape as a crime. But rape is rape, whether it’s by a stranger or one’s partner. Women who are raped by their husbands not only suffer physically and mentally, they are also effected severely in the long run. In 1993, martial rape became a crime in almost 50 countries in the world, under at least one section of the sexual offence code. Government of Cyprus clarified that “rape is rape irrespective of whether it is committed within or outside marriage”. Why does India not treat marital rape as a crime, even after being aware of pathetic condition of women? We want our government to criminalize marital rape and think of the dignity of women instead of the ‘sanctity’ of marriage.

Stricter Measures To Eradicate The Still Prevalent Dowry System (Dahej Pratha)

According to National Crime Record Bureau, India has highest number of dowry deaths in the world. In 2012, 8233 dowry deaths were reported, which means a bride was burned every 90 minutes. Dowry issue cause 1.4 deaths per year per 100,000 women in India. Women from the poor sections or girls who are uneducated/less educated sometimes lack the courage to stand against dowry system. The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 has been in effect, but the dowry deaths and murder still continue unchecked in many parts of India, and this has further added to the concerns of stricter enforcement of the law.

A Check On Fee Hike In Educational Institutions

Women and girls who belong to the middle class families often face financial constraints that come in the way of their education. For parents, providing quality education to their children, especially in private schools is getting tougher by the day. The government should set a limit – beyond which the schools cannot hike their fees. Parents are bound to buy books and uniform from the shops prescribed by the schools, this becomes a major concern for single mothers and housewives – because of the limited income. Hence, they are unable to provide for a quality education for their child.

Women Reservation Bill

Women deserve equal representation in politics. Image via Getty

Women’s Reservation Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly. This reservation for women in one-third of the Lok Sabha seats will be on a rotational basis. Discrimination against women can be seen in all fields including reservation. A study conducted by the University World Institute for Development Economic Research found that assembly constituencies with women representatives show significantly higher economic growth than those under their male counterparts. We want the government to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill – because women deserve equal representation in politics.

Women constitute half the population of this country, our leaders need to ensure equal rights for women in public as well as private domain. From fair representation in politics to security within their homes – demands of women in our country are myriad and in the upcoming elections we demand our leading political parties to pay heed to them. As this will not only benefit us it will also improve our economic growth as a country.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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