10th March, 2010
NAPM questions the denial of women’s right to space in the Rajya Sabha
We welcome the Bill with further aim of due right and space to disadvantaged sections
We, the people’s movements welcome the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill, after scandalously having been held up for more than a decade, denying women their rightful space in the highest electoral bodies – the Parliament and State Legislatures. While no woman can stay away from the welcoming the Women’s Reservation Bill, each one of us should know that the Bill is a sharp betrayal in one respect and that is it does not give the rightful place for women in the Upper House of the Parliament – The Rajya Sabha.
It is like reserving the ‘House of Lords’ for the men in the patriarchal society that we belong to. This is totally unjustifiable, especially since the Rajya Sabha has party nominated representatives who can also come from the wider civil society and Government nominated who belong to various sectors / fields of eminence like Kuldip Nayyar, Shabana Azmi, Abani Roy, Kapila Vatsyayan, Anwar Ali and others who may not ‘succeed’ in the game of money, mafia and market that is electoral politics and are still at leading democratic fora with their contribution to society and leading role played given their pro-people and with people activities.
It is this very place and space for the civil society women that is being denied by the Bill. Hence while cutting down the ‘right’ to 33% from the 50%, which is a due right of those who contribute 2/3rds of labour, with negligible right to property and income. It should be recognized that women are the ones with least involvement in the criminalization of society and hence exclusion is unfortunate. Beyond gender, not only the historically oppressed castes, but also class disparity should be reflected and all the political parties who are presently putting up economically rich candidates must be held responsible for the same.
We assert that there should be right to 50% seats in the Rajya Sabha as well. The issue of Rajya Sabha reservations, not limiting it to the lower House of the Parliament, (Lok Sabha) and State Assemblies, should be raised in the Parliament, today, here and now, There can be a further and later public debate on socio-political space for various disadvantaged communities, including minorities, which women will certainly grant, given their sensitivity.
There is a long way to go……
Ø We have to take our clue from representation of women in Panchayat elections, where all the teething problems are being overcome over the years.
Ø We also strongly feel that the whole issue must be linked up with the wider campaign for electoral reforms without which women and the disadvantaged sections can never play their representative role. The State must fund the elections and there should be a strict ceiling on electoral expenditure for this purpose.
Ø Natural justice would demand that 50% of political pace should be granted to the women and not 33%, which could be attained by permitting one woman and one male representative from each electoral constituency but we need to expand spaces as we go along.
Ø We agree that safeguards need to be there in order to see to it that women of the toiling classes and disadvantaged castes and tribes can contest and this would be best taken care of by electoral reforms including Right to recall. Women representatives would also have to play an expect role against casteism, communalism, corruption, corporatization and criminalization of politics.
Ø The need is to engage ourselves in wider politics which goes beyond electroral fora, to develop the value – based agenda on people’s politics which can get reflected into the political – democratic fora including both the Houses of Parliament and State Legislatures.
Ø It is still a long way to go. We have to work hard in our own organisations and aross political parties to overcome patriarchal attitude and enable women and men to work with each other in colleageal and competent ways.
Medha Patkar D. Gabriele Madhuresh Kumar
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