#GenderEqualityElectionWatch: Punjab Congress Manifesto Notes

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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

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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.