Political parties yet to move beyond symbols on women’s empowerment

A recent survey found that security and empowerment of women was tenth most important in a list of 30 election issues.

New Delhi: Who would have imagined that the roar of the angry crowds at India Gate in December 2012 would echo all the way to the general elections 18 months later? Who could have predicted the ferocity of raw emotion spilling over Rajpath right up to the grand vistas that lead up to Parliament House?

Looking back at that winter, it’s hard to say exactly what that raw emotion was all about. Justice, said the slogans, but underlying it was a young, restless India’s articulation against mismanagement of the economy and a lack of avenues for growth. Hang rapists, said the placards but there was equal anger against a non-responsive government struggling under the weight of scams. A defensive Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) locked down India Gate, making it out of bounds for the protesters. And slowly, as a commission was set up and promises of stricter laws made, the protest petered out. Continue reading “Political parties yet to move beyond symbols on women’s empowerment”

‘Empowered’ states have fewer women MPs

States with  the  best sex  ratios,  gender  indices elect the fewest women to Parliament.

New Delhi: States with the best sex ratios and gender indices elect the fewest women to Parliament, finds a study conducted for Mint by IndiaSpend.com, a data journalism initiative. Conversely, states with poorer gender indices have the highest percentage of women Members of Parliament (MPs).

The top five states with the highest percentage of women MPs are, in order of ranking, Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. Continue reading “‘Empowered’ states have fewer women MPs”

A very tiny stepping stone

A slim optimism lies in the start to a conversation of a changed India, an India where women outnumbered men as voters in all five of the recently held assembly elections.

A slim optimism lies in the start to a conversation of a changed India, an India where women outnumbered men as voters in all five of the recently held assembly elections.

A strange thing happened this week. The BJP’s Karnataka unit announced that it was admitting Pramod Muthalik, self-proclaimed protector of Hindu culture and leader of a mob that beat up women in a Mangalore pub in 2009. The announcement was followed by a torrent of outrage on the social and mainstream media. Continue reading “A very tiny stepping stone”

Women seeking political office face personal attacks

A photoshopped Twitter photo of Gul Panag with an AAP cap before she was named candidate from Chandigarh is just an example of blatant misogyny reserved for women politicians.

New Delhi: If it hadn’t been so predictable, it might have been dismissed as a sick joke. But there it was, in full colour. Scantily dressed with the photoshopped addition of a strategically placed Aam Aadmi cap was politics’ newest debutant, social activist, feminist and actor Gul Panag. The picture, put out on Twitter on 12 March, arrived even before Panag had been officially declared the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) candidate from Chandigarh. But clearly the bugle had been sounded.

The handle went by the name BJP2014 but the party quickly dissociated itself from it. Not the “official handle of the party”, tweeted Arvind Gupta, the national head of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) IT cell. It was simply “not authorized/affiliated to any of the party’s activities”. Continue reading “Women seeking political office face personal attacks”

Nota just a symbolic act

With very few exceptions, politics no longer attracts the brightest and the cleanest. In an environment where we assume sab neta chor hain we opt for the least unattractive.

The names have begun trickling in and speculation is rife. The BJP has announced that former Karnataka chief minister BS Yeddyurappa, forced to step down after an indictment by the state lokayukta in a graft case, is its candidate from Shimoga. ‘Cruel joke’, responds the Congress but has no explanation for fielding Pawan Kumar Bansal (railway posts-for-cash) and Subodh Kant Sahay (coal block allocation) or even whether it will eventually axe Suresh Kalmadi (CWG) and Ashok Chavan (Adarsh).

Like the BJP, the Congress spokespeople take refuge in the argument: No conviction, yet. Like the Congress, the BJP says due process must be allowed and candidates are innocent until proven guilty. Continue reading “Nota just a symbolic act”

What women want

To not be raped. To not be subject to dowry. The right to be acknowledged as their children’s natural guardian. Meet four women who forced the law to recognize these basic rights.

A protest march can sometimes tell us just how far, or how little, we have travelled. In 1972 a girl called Mathura was raped by two policemen in the compound of their police station in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district. As the case inched its way through the sessions court (she was habituated to sexual intercourse, therefore no rape) to the Supreme Court (no visible injury marks, therefore no rape), women’s groups became angrier, the protests grew louder, the slogans more strident.

“We want justice.” Continue reading “What women want”

Medical examination norms for sexual assault cases await nod

Women’s groups argue for a more humane approach to survivors that focuses on holistic treatment.

New Delhi: News reports of a ban on the so-called two-finger test and the issuance of national guidelines on dealing with sexual assault cases by the ministry of health are wrong and misleading, say women’s groups.

The file on this has not yet been signed by health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, three months after the recommendations were submitted by a committee set up by his ministry to look into all aspects of sexual assault, including medical examination. Continue reading “Medical examination norms for sexual assault cases await nod”

Lounge Review | Satyamev Jayate Episode 1: The rape roadmap

Redemption really came in the final segment of the show when Aamir Khan interviewed two remarkable rape survivors.

In the two hours that it took to telecast the first episode of Star Plus’ second season of Satyamev Jayate, over five women and girls would have reported rape somewhere in India. In a country where a woman is raped every 22 minutes, over five women would have lived out what Aamir Khan outlined as the ordeal of a rape survivor. Somewhere a girl or woman would have been telling police the details of how she had been raped and by whom; she would be preparing to submit to the humiliation of a medical examination as described in the show though, of course, there would have been no way of her knowing just then that her fight for justice would take her through a long legal battle that could take decades. Continue reading “Lounge Review | Satyamev Jayate Episode 1: The rape roadmap”

A ruinous law of omerta

Paid news undermines democracy. Yet, as a sting operation goes public, why aren’t we more concerned?

You didn’t need a survey to predict the reactions. As TV channel News Express broadcast a sting operation that showed as many as 11 polling agencies willing to tweak results for a price, the reactions by political parties played out to a script.

The Congress, which most surveys predict will be ousted in this year’s elections, reiterated its demand for a ban on polls. AAP wants regulation and transparency rather than a ban. And the BJP, at the top of poll predictions, raises the point: If you ban polls today, someone will want to ban political analysis and commentary tomorrow. Where does it stop? Continue reading “A ruinous law of omerta”

Intolerance has become India’s national sport

We attack students because they look a certain way, we hound out Africans from neighbourhoods because ‘they are not like us’, we tie up books in lengthy litigation because we find their ideas unpalatable. This has become our national sport.

The debris of intolerance is all around us. Not protests nor black flags, just a suit filed in a Delhi court is all that it took for Penguin India to capitulate and withdraw Wendy Doniger’s The Hindus: An Alternative History.

In Delhi, students from the Northeast continue to be assaulted for looking different: Four cases this past week alone.

In Parliament, pepper spray and broken mikes replace debate and discussion on the contentious issue of Telangana. Continue reading “Intolerance has become India’s national sport”