To mark International Women’s Day, the GNLU Centre for Law and Society conducted a panel discussion with Mr. Saurabh Anand, Ms. Saira Gori, Ms. Bindu Vijay, Ms. Prabhavati Baskey, Mr. Tarun, Ms. Esha Meher, Mr. Sujoy Sur, Mr. Ambrish Tewari and Ms. Esha Tomar offering their insights on the Role of Women in Contemporary Indian Politics.
The discussion brought up many vital issues prevalent in today’s political context, but it also offered individual and sometimes conflicting perspectives to the approaches to be adopted in combating problems faced by women in politics.
The session began with Mr. Tarun setting the agenda and the guidelines for the discussion and then giving the floor to the other panellists.
Ms. Esha Meher advocated a comprehensive approach and looking at problems with feminism at large. The issues with empowerment do not lie so much with how many people have voting rights but more so with how many people are able to exercise those voting rights. There should be a focus on how socially and politically aware a woman is. When she casts her vote, the questions we must ask ourselves is whether she cast that vote of her own free will, making an informed choice based on personal and individual political ideations, or if she was coerced into doing so by her husband.
Another issue she brought up was that a number of successful women in the political arena are women who have emerged from political dynasties. Having a family of male politicians bodes well for an Indian woman who wants to enter politics. However, breaking into the system should not be so dependent on nepotism.
Ms. Esha Tomar brought up the success of women in NGOs and how social workers who though do not play a direct role in politics, do help in raising awareness and other forms of social empowerment.
Ms. Saira Gori emphasised the rural -urban divide in empowerment and how that needs to be an area of focused change. Mr. Saurabh Anand raised the issue of despite there being reservation, the power to effect change is still frustrated when the top posts are held by men, and society and families are inherently patriarchal. Men need to stop being the only ones holding the reins and women need to be heard.
Mr. Sujoy Sur argued that women should not be given political identities as women but rather, as able politicians. Recognising her contribution based on her gender and not on her merit is not giving her full credit. There should not be a separate assimilation of gender identity in politics.
Ms. Esha Meher offered a different opinion on that subject. She believed, to ensure that there is empowerment, a woman should use her gender identity. She cited the example of Jayalalithaa, who created the “Amma” identity, intrinsically tied to her image as a motherly and caring figure. Women have something special to offer as a separate gender and that has to be identified and utilised.
Ms Prabhavati Baskey, promoted reservations as a solution to the problem. However, they have to be effectively implemented. She pointed out that often, seats reserved for women lie vacant as there are no competent candidates to contest elections The issue lies not with no woman being able, but rather, no able woman wanting to contest the seat. That is for reasons inherent in politics. Women are hesitant to join politics because of the way the nature of the political arena has degenerated into corruption and unfair practices. For women, a trend of dirty politics has to change before they enter politics. Ms. Esha Meher concurred and added that that applies equally to both men and women. No educated, decent human wants to devote their lives to practices and politics devoid of ethics.
Mr. Ambrish Tewari believed that the problems lie with societal misconceptions of what a politician should be – because of stereotypes on how an ideal politician should meet certain parameters, able women are not elected to power.
Ms. Bindu supported the ideas of evaluation of parties in terms of the levels to which they empower women and reprimanding them for failures. Furthermore, the government must focus on effective implementation of existing schemes for empowerment.
Mr. Sujoy pointed out that subtle changes need to occur. Even the language we use could promote a subtly patriarchal mindset and reinforce gender prejudices. To sum up he proffered suggestions – to educate both men and women about empowerment and the contribution women can make to politics, and to ensure upward political mobility among the labour force. Ms. Esha Meher added that we need to start ensuring there is economic empowerment of women as political change would appear incidental to that, and we need to acknowledge biological differences between sexes and concomitant differences in ability.
The discussion posed some thought provoking questions- questions that can only be answered individually, but it was a significant mark of the day. A fitting testament to the progress and change women have made and have the potential to make.
Report written Samira Mathias, Member, GNLU Centre for Law and Society)
(Image courtesy: https://www.internationalwomensday.com/About)
LEGAL SERVICES COMMITTEE
NCW-Sponsored Legal Awareness Programme for Women
LSC organized the Legal Awareness Programme on women-related laws in collaboration with the National Commission for Women. This legal awareness programme was organized in three phases. The first phase witnessed participation from 120 women belonging to various villages in the Gandhinagar district. The second phase was conducted in Pahlaj village and Dehgam village and this phase saw a participation of more than 150 women. The third phase focused on working women and it saw a participation of more than 110 working women. Interactive sessions on the topics ‘Women, Family Law and Customs’, ‘Women and the Constitution’, ‘Women and Criminal Law’ and ‘Access to Justice’ were conducted.
Know Your Rights Programme in Valad
A legal awareness program was conducted by Legal Services Committee in Sheth M.S. Bhanawala High School, Valad on Tuesday, 10th October 2017. A total of 229 students from 9th and 10th standard were present for the session. It was an interactive session where the Committee talked about Article 14, 15, 21, 21A. Along with explaining the students about fundamental rights, a brief introduction on consumer rights was also given.
Legal Awareness Programme on Basics of Labour Law
The Committee conducted a legal awareness programme on basics of labour law at ‘MARG’ institute of vocational training in Amrigarh village, Banaskantha District which is almost 160 Kilometers from Ahmedabad city. The objective of the legal awareness programme was to talk about the rights of workers to students of MARG. A total of around 150 students were present for the legal awareness programme. The Committee gave a brief talk on topics such as remuneration, right to leave, insurance, concepts of gratuity, provident funds, trade union, standing order were
Free Health Camp and Blood Donation Drive
The Committee conducted a blood donation and health camp in collaboration with the Red Cross Chapter, Ahmedabad Chapter. The same was organized in an endeavour to not only facilitate the aid of such individuals who require medical assistance but also to promote the objective of a healthy environment and its conduciveness to the growth of human beings in interaction on a daily basis.
The total foot fall for the event was 399 with 179 units being collected post the blood donation for which 237 people had expressed the desire to be donors. 162 was the final count for those who underwent a thorough health check-up under the able hands of 7 specialists. Specialists included an ophthalmologist, physiotherapist, orthopaedic, gynecologist, ENT specialist, dentist, dermatologist and a physician. Not only students and staff of GNLU but also residents of nearby villages including Koba, Raysan, Firozpur, and Valad along with residents of nearby societies and students of colleges in Knowledge Corridor benefitted from this free health check-up camp.
100 Hours of Compulsory Pro-Bono Legal Service
The Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), in its endeavor to stand out as a world class university has made it compulsory from the current batch (Batch of 2015-2020) and onwards to devote 100 hours to serving the society. This endeavor is being regulated and coordinated by the LSC and performance and initiative of the students is being formally evaluated. The committee, in furtherance of its objectives, shall be responsible for the overall conduct of this endeavor.