In Himachal Pradesh, the Congress is seeking re-election so their manifesto opens by asking: Why the Congress again in 2017? The answers are not very persuasive, the content repetitive and the language weak. But never mind, because this is a gender audit and what we really want to know is what the Congress is promising to women and what its approach is to gender issues. On that note, in the introduction we are told that with the UPA, schemes have been introduced and implemented for the welfare of every section of society including women. They have gone, we are told, beyond the promises of their last manifesto. The introduction reassures us that women will be provided with respect and safety.
The Congress manifesto has a section “For Women” in which it promises:
- Academic support to meritorious girl students.
- Hostels for working women in cities.
- Pension schemes for orphaned girls, girls and women with disabilities and widows.
- Appropriate justice and administrative measures to fast track cases of harassment and misdemeanours against women.
- Access to credit for self-employed women.
- Self-defence training centres in every district to train women.
- Women’s police stations in every district.
- Anganwadi Centres in every village to take care of women and children.
- Expansion of the free ambulance service for pregnant women.
- A ‘Woman Safety Application’ will be operationalised for women’s safety.
- Women’s organisations will be strengthened in every way.
- The grant given for the marriages of the daughters of widowed women will be expanded.
Under the category of health care, it is promised that more women will be trained as nurses.
Overall, there is less text devoted in this manifesto to women (as compared to the BJP) but women for the Congress are students, workers and entrepreneurs. They are professionals—police and nurses. Their health-care needs, at least as mothers, are addressed. Self-defence and safety are addressed here, rather than the patriarchal attitudes that lead to violence, but the tone is less paternalistic.
Going by the Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist however:
- Again, the numbers of candidates are low.
- It is not clear how much support they are getting.
- Misogynistic speech is a non-issue.
- There is no promise to end impunity or to bar those who are charge-sheeted for crimes against women.