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

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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.

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

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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: Goa and Punjab Candidate list update

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It’s candidate list time.

Goa

The BJP’s first list for Goa includes 29 candidates (40 seats in Goa) and of these 29, only one candidate is a woman–Alina Matanhy Saldanha, the sitting MLA from Cortalim.

AAP has announced 36 candidates. Of these, four are women. These are Ursula D’Souza from Aldona, Sraddha Khalap from Mapusa, Lorreta D’Souza from Vasco-da-gama and Cecille Rodrigues from Taleigao.

The Congress list of 27 candidates includes three women: Jennifer Monserrate from Talaigao, Urmila Naik from Margao and Savitri Kawlekar from Sanguem.

The Shiv Sena has nominated no women.

The NCP has nominated five candidates and one, Nelly Rodrigues (from Cortalim), is a woman.

(Source: http://www.elections.in/goa/assembly-constituencies/candidate-list.html)

Punjab

The BJP‘s first list of candidates for Punjab nominates seventeen, of which two are women, both sitting MLAs: Seema Kumari of Bhoa and Sukhjeet Kaur Sahi from Dasuya.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has nominated 87 candidates of whom four are women: Upinderjit Kaur from Sultanpur Lodhi, Vaninder Kaur Loomba from Sutrana, Harpreet Kaur Mukhmailpur from Ghanaur and Bibi Mohinder Kaur from Sham Chaurasi.

The Congress has across three lists nominated 100 candidates. Nine are women. These are: Aruna Chaudhary from Dina Nagar, Satkar Kaur from Firozpur Rural, Ranjit Kaur Bhatti from Budhlada, Harchand Kaur from Mehal Kalan, Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary from Phillaur, Rajwinder Kaur Bhagikay from Nihal Singhwala, Rajinder Kaur Bhattal from Lehra, Karon Kaur Brar from Muktsar and Razia Sultana from Malerkotla. Incidentally, the first six are constituencies reserved for Scheduled Caste candidates.

AAP has nominated 117 candidates and nine are women. AAP women candidates are Harjiot Kaur from Banga, Sarvjit Kaur Manuke from Jagraon, Rupinder Kaur from Bathinda Rural, Palwinder Kaur from Shutrana, Prof. Baljinder Kaur from Talwandi Sabo, Balbir Kaur Phull from Dasuya, Sarabjit Kaur from Dera Bassi, Anu Randhawa from Ghanaur and Kuldeep Kaur Tohra from Sanour. The first four are reserved SC seats.

There do not appear to be any women among the 18 BSP Punjab candidates.

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In sum, political parties are performing pathetically on the inclusivity criterion.

 

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.