#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Manifest(o) Misogyny: The INC Manifesto for the Himachal Pradesh 2017 Assembly election

Standard

Election Manifesto 2017

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.

Talking gender equality at election time (1)

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.
Advertisements

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Manifest(o) Misogyny (1): The BJP manifesto for Himachal Pradesh 2017

Standard

What does the BJP manifesto for Himachal Pradesh‘s 2017 Assembly election promise? More importantly, what does it reveal about the BJP’s gender politics?

Called the “Golden Himachal Vision Document 2017,” the document opens with a listing of ten ways in which the Modi government has strengthened the foundations of Himachal Pradesh; sixth and seventh on this list are the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana under which 1,80,829 accounts have been opened and the Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign for which Rs. 49 lakhs have been mobilised for this state. The seven health developments listed do not include women’s health measures.

In the list of promises, women follow youth and farmers and precede senior citizens, government workers, army veterans and weaker sections. This tells us that women are considered an important vote-bank, though not as vital as youth or farmers.

The section on women is titled “Empowered woman, equal rights” (Sashakt Nari, Samaan Adhikaar). The BJP states that it is necessary to take steps to ensure that women are equal partners in development, and that respect and safety for women is their highest priority. Development programmes should be gender-sensitive and they would take measures to improve women’s health and livelihoods.

The Empowered Woman Yojana will have a special allocation which will enable the setting up of an ‘Empowered Woman Centre’ (Sashakt Stree Kendra) in every gram panchayat, which will fully empower women and make them independent. The word ‘empowered’ is repeated throughout this document but we do not know what ‘empowerment’ means. Today in India, it is as if repeating ‘women empowerment’ (forget the ‘apostrophe s’) will transform society. In fact, it acts as a smoke-screen that protects patriarchy.

The Empowered Women Centres will generate new job opportunities for women, and support women entrepreneurs, farmers and self-help groups. Women will be offered legal help in the centres and an ‘Empowered Woman Official’ (Sashakt Stree Adhikari) will be appointed for the implementation of the 2005 Domestic Violence Act. (Twelve years later, should this even be a promise?) The Centre will allow women to be a part of decisions made at the Panchayat—a right that the Constitution gives them. The Centre will host (Sashakt Stree Sabha) Empowered Women Assemblies where elected women Panchayat representatives will meet other women and take forward issues, demands and recommendations to the state government level.  Funds will also be allocated towards building the capacity of elected women representatives. The Centres will also be responsible for administering nutritional schemes.

Considering cleanliness to be a fundamental right, the regular cleaning and maintenance of public toilets will be undertaken, the BJP promises. Facilities essential to women’s health and reproductive care will be provided for in public bathrooms—presumably, this refers to sanitary napkins. Allocations will be increased for prenatal and postnatal health care.

The next category of promises relates to women’s safety. The accent here is on protection and the paternalism is underscored by the name of the redressal mechanism to be launched: “Gudiya Yojana” or “Doll Scheme.” Every district will have a 24×7 Women’s Police Station. There will be a 24×7 Gudiya Helpline. Every mobile phone will have a Shakti (Power) button which used, will report the user’s location, name and phone number to the police control room, the nearest mobile police van and station. To increase the percentage of women police recruits to make 33% of the force, is another promise, as are self-defence classes organised in government schools.

To refer to women and girls as ‘gudiya’ may be intended to demonstrate filial affection but dolls are lifeless, lacking in intelligence, unable to think and act and must be acted for and upon. What does this tell us about the thinking of the BJP in this state (or elsewhere)? That women and girls are less than human?

The next subheading is ‘Women-Centred Laws.’ Immediate investigation and strict implementation of laws against rape, dowry, sexual harassment and domestic violence are promised. It is shameful that this should even be a promise; it should be a given.

Women farmers will be given equal rights, and a Women Farmers’ Bill will be introduced to recognise their debts, agricultural inputs and land rights. This last suggestion is the only one that recognises women as agents and contributors to society.

For the rest, they remain mothers and otherwise infantile objects to be protected, provided for and empowered. Government—mostly men, given the nomination statistics—will take care of women and girls, don’t worry. Moreover, many of the promises are tantamount to simply stating that the government will do its job—from safety and health care to recruiting women into the police, these are old policies.

Talking gender equality at election time (1)

It is laughable to apply the Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist here but when one does so just as an academic exercise, the omissions and silences in the manifesto are underscored:

  • The number of nominated women is pathetic.
  • It is not clear how well-supported those women are.
  • There is no censure of misogynistic speech.
  • While the BJP promises to protect women, it says nothing about penalising men who have been charged with hurting women.

Tomorrow: The Congress manifesto for HP. 

(Translations mine, with occasional help from Google.)

#GENDEREQUALITYELECTIONWATCH: Uttarakhand

Standard

Again, this is getting written on election day in Uttarakhand. What that means is that it will largely end up being an account of numbers–how many women and how many mentions in a manifesto. The lack of consistent, everyday monitoring means that we do not get to track campaign speeches for misogyny. This election watch project has also missed out on checking out criminal charges of candidates. Notwithstanding these shortcomings, I would say it is worth finishing what we started so here is a gender analysis of the election in Uttarakhand.

How many women? 

Last update: Feb 15, 2017
Assembly size: 70
Source: elections.in
Seats contested Women nominees
Samajwadi Party 51 NA
Uttarakhand Kranti Dal 70 NA
BJP 70 5
Congress 70 9
BSP 24 1
Rashtriya Lok Dal 3 0

What is left to say about the low percentage of women nominees?

Gender in the manifestos

As hard as it is to find gender sensitivity in party manifestos, it is hard to find the manifestos themselves. What is the point of a manifesto that cannot be easily found in the public domain? It must be to minimises traces of promises made and the opportunity cost of accountability.

Based on a news report, the Congress manifesto promises 33% reservation for women in government jobs. The other promise with gender transformational potential is to set up five aapda mitra (in every village?) or disaster relief workers. If 2-3 of them were women, that would alter the face of disaster mitigation, relief and rehabilitation in Uttarakhand. However, we have no way of knowing more.

The BJP manifesto, also culled from a newsreport, includes a cash gift to girls: “Rs. 5,000 for every girl child born in poor families” and a removal of the age bar for widow pensions at Rs 1000. Very interestingly, it promises that, “The opinion of all women on triple talaq will be taken and placed in front of Supreme Court.”

For the other parties, there did not even seem to be reports on the manifesto release. Did they not bother?

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Goa

Standard

It’s voting day today in Punjab and Goa. The one-person team doing this election watch exercise has proven inadequate to the task of genuinely monitoring the election season.

Nevertheless, here is a post on the Goa election season.

Last update: Feb 4, 2017
Assembly size: 40
Source: http://www.elections.in/goa/
Seats contested Women nominees
INC 27 3
BJP 29 1
NCP 5 1
AAP 36 4
Shiv Sena 4 0

Manifestos for Goa were released rather late, going by press reports. Is that because they were considered irrelevant to the outcome? That would also account for how hard it has been to locate them (full-text) online. If manifestos don’t matter, why draft them? Finding the full-text version is important to a gender equality audit because gender provisions and promises are usually platitudes and do not merit mention in press releases and reports.

The BJP’s Goa manifesto could not be located online after a careful search that included the Goa BJP website and Twitter account. The search for the Congress manifesto yielded this tweet, the first explicit reference to safety I have seen. Nothing shows up for the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.

The Aam Aadmi Party had begun announcing its candidates as early as August and they have the only easily-located manifesto of the lot. It looks like the manifesto is the product of a dialogue process (the cover says “Contributed by 350+ Goa Dialogues”).

The AAP Goa manifesto opens with a listing of four social welfare schemes to benefit women–Saksham Asturi, Rs. 2500 a month for skill development; Ladli Laxmi, 2 lakhs for young women; Mamta Scheme, 50,000 for girl children; and Grih Aaadhaar for families. Each of these is described in greater detail in the text.

The AAP manifesto specifically calls out misogynistic speech by Goa politicians and for this, receives full marks from this Gender Equality Election Watch: “Women in Goa are known for their entrepreneurial spirit which the past Governments have absolutely overlooked. It is high time that women here are provided the right environment to flourish financially and socially. Their resolve and vigour is almost unparalleled across the country but instead politicians have not left a stone unturned to verbally and physically insult women [emphasis added].

Check out their other promises which show breadth in their thinking: Women are workers, need access to health and justice  at all life-stages and social safety nets. They are not imagined just as mothers or as economic actors.

aapss

Goa is voting as I write this post. Let’s see what happens.

#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Punjab Congress Manifesto Notes

Standard

On January 9, 2017, the Indian National Congress released its Punjab manifesto. This is a 129-page epic for which they could not find an editor, but never mind that–after all, if someone gets their gender politics right, we won’t care how they write!

Simplifying the word ‘gender’ to mean ‘women’ (which we will end up doing everywhere, I suspect!), I found only one section called ‘Women Empowerment’ whose provisions were extended and elaborated twice. In the nine-point opening summary, this is what we read: “Women Empowerment: 33% reservation for women in jobs and educational institutions”.

Further down, on page 26, this is extended to include allocation of residential and commercial plots. Moreover, reservation for women in urban and rural self-government would go up to 50%.

Finally, on page 110, the Manifesto makes seven additional promises, including livelihood training for widows of farmers who have committed suicide; free education for girls; Safe Cities for women and Crisis Centres; a stronger State Commission for Women and a State Policy on Women’s Empowerment.

There is one other provision that applies to women–it is the promise to require registration of NRI marriages as a protection for brides.

Women do not appear anywhere else in the Manifesto. The list of poll promises is as generic as it gets. There is little clue that anyone gave gender issues or gender equality any thought. Hardly very surprising, and perhaps this is what we can expect from all the Manifestos, which makes it a very good reason to audit them for their gender provisions and call them on their shortcomings.

2017 Election Watch for Gender Equality

Standard

The year opened with the announcement of election dates for five Indian states. We’ve pulled out our Gender Equality Election Checklist and are putting the energy we can towards getting people to think about gender equality as nomination lists are drawn up, manifestos are released and campaigns unleashed across the subcontinent.

talking-gender-equality-at-election-timeDrawing on the main points in the Checklist, this article elaborated on how a political party might implement each of them. Where do you find women qualified to be representatives? How can a party avoid the hate speech-makers and those charge-sheeted for sexual violence in its candidate lists?

This blog will attempt to serve as a gender equality election monitor for the next three months.

Do we think that Indian political parties, steeped as they are in patriarchal privilege, will change because of our blogposts? Of course not. But if we can get voters to think twice or mediapersons to add gender equality questions to their interviews, we will have made a little difference. Each vote counts. Each effort counts.

 

PRAJNYA COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT NATIONAL POLICY FOR WOMEN 2016

Standard

PRAJNYA TRUST COMMENTS ON THE DRAFT NATIONAL POLICY FOR WOMEN 2016

June 1, 2016

We, at The Prajnya Trust, would like to start by commending the Ministry for Women and Child Development for placing such an early draft of the National Policy for Women 2016 in the public domain for comments and suggestions.

We submit our comments and suggestions herewith. These are organised by section, reflecting the structure of the draft. We have chosen to focus on a few priority areas, reflecting our own work foci. At the end, we add some overall comments and suggestions.

  1. Introduction:

I.1.6       The juxtapositions in this paragraph are misleading. Growing awareness makes increased reporting possible; increased reporting is not a negative, because it indicates awareness. Expansion of work opportunities co-exists with weak bargaining power, but more importantly, the changing nature of the workplace has created new workplace risks for women. These examples should be chosen with more care than as filler text because through them, the Ministry is signalling to society what the government thinks of as desirable and what they think is the root of the problem.

  1. Governance and Decision-making

IV.i         Parity should be the means to achieve equality, so that 50% would be the standard required nomination and representation of women at all levels.

IV.ii and IV.iii will remain on a wish-list without incentives for increasing the numbers of women working in these sectors.

IV.iv       The absence of gender disaggregated data is an obstacle in every sphere. Gender-disaggregated data and gender audits deserve to become priorities across all policy areas, not just here.

IV.v        It is also important to strength government departments’ compliance with gender equality laws (like having an Internal Complaints Committee for workplace harassment complaints) and to sensitise whole organisations to gender concerns.

IV.vi       In addition to strengthening SHGs and other grassroots women’s groups, it is important to build a pipeline that will enable them to enter the mainstream of politics and policy-making. Reservations are a part of that and so are voluntary party quotas. Skill and confidence building is another key ingredient and the National Policy should recognise that. This area also has potential for government-civil society partnerships.

IV.vii      Improving  the capacity of elected representatives and those rising through the ranks towards nomination gives meaning to equal representation.

What we miss in this section:

  • Campaign finance reform so that women are not at a financial disadvantage during elections.
  • Misogynistic speech and gender-based violence chargesheets should disqualify a candidate until and unless acquitted by a court.
  • Requirement of equal institutional support by political parties to male and female candidates.

Please see our Gender Equality Election Checklist: https://keepingcount.wordpress.com/2016/04/14/prajnya-gender-equality-election-checklist/

  1. Violence against Women

Section V speaks of a life-cycle approach and then identifies three types of violence for special attention. Focusing attention and resources is a good idea. The draft policy takes due cognizance of cyber-crimes as an area that needs attention.

V.vi        There needs also to be an increase in the number of women in police and paramilitary services.

V.vii       Decision-making around setting up new institutions and initiatives is neither consultative nor inclusive. As a result the policy (like the government) commits to models and approaches whose short-comings are already evident elsewhere. This would be a good place to commit to an open and consultative approach (like the one for this draft policy) when planning such measures.

On the question of shelters and crisis homes, there are reviews that suggest a great qualitative variation in philosophy and service delivery. To arrive, consultatively, at common norms and best practices, as also to create an “industry” body for self-regulation would be useful.

V.viii      To reiterate the point made earlier, a comprehensive gender-disaggregated database is needed, not just one on violence against women. There is some expertise in civil society that the government should tap into while funding and maintaining this database.

V.ix        While it is fashionable to speak of engaging boys and men, it is important to consider the extent to which our present violence against women outreach actually engages even women and girls. Public outreach has not been a part of government policy on this (except relating to child sex ratio).

We would also like to point out that the draft National Policy for Women displays the government’s binary thinking on gender.

Gender identity is a spectrum, and gender is what is experienced rather than what is prescribed based on biological details. While a government may quite fairly choose to focus on one section of society, that focus is best made with an inclusive perspective that acknowledges that just talking about women and men or casting them respectively as victim and oppressor is misleading. Thus, when we speak only about violence against women and engaging men and boys, we assume that one group is always the victim and the other either silent witnesses, accomplices or assailants. Our binary, heteronormative thinking creates two air-tight categories and loses sight of the large numbers of men, women and others who fall outside them. Any policy guidelines or projects conceptualised on this simplistic and insensitive view of gender relations are doomed to fail.

Related to this is anxiety about the impact of social change on men and boys.  Take the statement in VII.7.7.vii— “Given the number of new laws and policies related to gender-based violence, paternity leave, child support and gender equality broadly, it is crucial to understand the impact of such national-level and policy-level changes on boys and men,” notwithstanding the repetition of “rights-based approach” in the Introduction, you are pitching gender equality as a zero-sum game between two mutually exclusive gender groups. The reality is that gender equality is a win-win solution which can be beneficial to everyone.

V.x         This is why the point about gender sensitivity training is so important—not just for men and boys, but for all genders, in mixed and segregated groups.

What we miss in this section:

  • The draft report turns a blind eye to sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, in custody and in crisis in general. It may be that perpetrators are state or non-state actors, but ending impunity is the responsibility of the state. “Women in disturbed areas” can count on no support from the Ministry of Women and Child Development, it seems. We would like the policy to recognize the reality of sexual and gender-based violence in conflict, custody and crisis situations and to commit the Government of India to ending impunity, no matter who the perpetrator.
  • The draft also fails to mention sexual and gender based violence as a backlash to inter-caste and inter-religious relationships (‘honour’ crimes). Not only is such violence prevalent in several parts of the country, the Indian Penal Code has no provision to identify this as a distinct crime. Young people who choose their partners from beyond caste and religious boundaries, their families and sometimes entire communities are targeted by hooligans, and the state must commit to ending such crimes. By ignoring this violence, we implicitly sanction it while mouthing platitudes about social equality.
  • Marital rape is a reality for girls and women across the country, and creating awareness about the issue as well as formulating a mechanism to counter it must be on the Government of India’s agenda while formulating a National Policy for Women. At the least, the draft must commit to a consultative process on removing the exception to marital rape in the criminal law.

Suggestions

Action Priorities

The draft policy uses the word ‘priority’ to refer to action areas. We suggest the identification of a short list of action priorities instead, which can become the framework and filter for resource allocation and programmes in each of the action areas.

The three action priorities that emerge from the draft policy itself are:

  1. Gender-disaggregated data collection and resource creation
  2. Promoting and achieving compliance with existing gender equality laws within public, private and informal sectors
  3. Creating an enabling environment with focus on infrastructure, credit and training or capacity-building

Displacement

The omission of displacement is glaring. Refugee and Internally Displaced women face a range of problems peculiar to their dislocation from home. Rehabilitation services apart, their citizenship and  legal rights need  protection. Their absence from the National Policy for Women cannot be excused.

Timelines

The setting of timelines need not be left entirely to the Action Plans that new agencies will set up. They might be built into the Action Priorities themselves.

We at Prajnya welcome the inclusive, consultative mode in which the draft National Policy for Women has been placed in the public sphere. It gives all individuals and groups, regardless of location, size and celebrity, an equal chance to weigh in on an issue of concern to them.  We hope this inclusivity and consultative practice will be sustained as the Ministry’s preferred way of making policy.