Left-inclined politics in Bengal firmly made its presence with time, revolutionizing political ideologies among the youth. With a history of the Naxalite movement and 34 years of the left regime politics, Bengal has been heavily influenced by the dominant leftist ideology and its multiple interpretations in the ideological sphere. Shaping the political consciousness of thousands, the Naxalite movement had long-lasting repercussions on the practice of politics in campuses and later left rule in general.
However, the role of women has always been a matter of debate even within the most progressive spaces. Organizations affiliated with traditional leftist ideologies, practicing parliamentary politics have often been criticized for prioritizing the issues pertaining to class struggle over gender issues and are often accused to shy away from or being hostile towards articulating women’s issues.
Patriarchy often manifests itself in left platforms where sexism and harassment are clearly visible.
The organizations with the demand of time had to go through successive changes, keeping in mind the socio-economic situation of the society we live in. The organizations practicing both parliamentary leftist as well as alternative leftist politics have been trying to create a more all-inclusive space providing equal importance to any form of oppression or discrimination faced by individuals.
The number of women joining politics has increased manifold from the earlier times, but in many cases, this increase in the numbers has remained a mere act of tokenism. Gender participation or representation doesn’t ensure a gender sensitized space within an organization. In many cases, though the women officially occupy the leadership positions, they are treated as a mere ‘poster face’ and all the important decisions are actually taken by the men of the organization.
But also, in many other cases, there has been a significant increase in the strength of the women’s participation as well as improvement of the position of women within organizations. Almost every organization, due to the dire need of the time, now engages in activities pertaining to gender issues and conducts programs for promoting a gender sensitized space in society.
Some of the issues that are being dealt with, by the organizations are issues related to the rights of the LGBTQA+ community, the stigma attached to menstruation, sexual harassment cases, etc. It should also be noted that though on the one hand issues regarding gender are being dealt with by organizations, and representation of women in leadership positions has also increased, at the same time cases of sexual harassment against women within leftist organizations are also coming to surface.
Akin to the #metoo movement worldwide, in India survivors, also began to come out with their own narratives. Many of the women have criticized the left platforms as a Savarna masculinist sphere and through social media posts have voiced their protest against rampant casual sexism and even cases of sexual harassment within those spheres.
But it also should be noted that these issues are cropping up and being discussed publicly is in itself a positive development. Hence, though the role of women in politics has evolved through time, where women are being bestowed upon responsibilities to act and handle issues effectively, still accusations of sexual harassment are proofs of women being subjected to forms of violence even in the places that claim to be ‘safe places’ in general.
But it is futile to blame anyone field for these occurrences as though, the left inclined organizations are aiming to transform the society at large, but still, as they are not excluded from the larger society, the values of the societies will manifest in the political sphere as well. Hence, only by transforming the capitalist, patriarchal society can one aim to achieve a gender sensitized, all-inclusive space in the political organizations, as well as the society at large.