#NNNU A Women’s Charter Demanding Civic Rights


On August 14, 2018, 12 women from six NGOs in and around Chennai (Centre for Women’s Development and Research; Forum for Women’s Rights and Development; Penn Thozhilalar Sangam; Positive Women’s Network; Roshni; Working Women’s Forum) joined us for a Namathu Nagaram Namathu Urimai consultation on civic rights–that is, what we can expect to enjoy as a matter of right in any community where we reside. The idea was to share our concerns with a view to arriving at a short list, which in turn would serve as a charter of demands for candidates in the upcoming local elections.

This is what we came up with.

பெண்கள் கூட்டமைப்பு (PENNGAL KOOTTAMAIPPU)

August 14, 2018

Our cities and towns are unliveable. Together, we identify the following problems as most urgent:

  • Our cities are filthy with uncollected garbage; unsegregated waste; poor disposal practices; solid waste disposal in sewage; unsafe disposal of plastic and medical waste; congested pavements with vendor and consumer waste; contaminated and worm-infested water supply; collapsed water and sewage lines; unsecured electrical junctions and cables; dirty, unsanitary and unused public toilets, and open defecation; and a lack of municipal oversight.
  • Our cities are unsafe, and women are at risk at home, in public spaces and at work.
  • Our cities are at risk because of substance abuse which results from the presence everywhere of TASMAC outlets and is a cause of domestic and sexual violence and insecure streets.
  • Government services and grievance redressal are inaccessible, whether we try to collect the widows’ pension, avail primary health care and we are not made aware of e-services.
  • Women are under-represented and lack voice, so that decisions about policy and services are made without taking our needs and experiences into account.

From those who seek our vote, we demand:

  • A Clean City
    • Provide dustbins on every street to facilitate segregation of bio and other waste;
    • Ensure regular and timely garbage collection;
    • Distribute usable and potable water equally and fairly;
    • Remove illegal street encroachments;
    • Assure sanitary street food stalls;
    • Improve and maintain drainage and sewage systems;
    • Maintain clean and functional public toilets;
    • Inspect sanitation systems and services on a regular schedule.
  • A Safe City
    • Resolve and commit to protecting girl children in local government bodies, from the municipal corporation to the zilla parishad to the gram sabha;
    • Maintain efficient and effective women and children’s helplines;
    • Set up and ensure proper functioning of the Local Complaints Committees;
    • Position and regularly review surveillance cameras in sensitive and secluded areas;
    • Appoint more women administrators and police officers;
    • Sensitise parents, media and government workers to gender issues;
    • Commit to introducing sex education and self-defence training in schools and the promotion of girls’ and women’s sports opportunities.
  • A City Secure from Alcohol Abuse and its Effects
    • Relocate TASMAC outlets away from residential areas, school and college neighbourhoods and public transportation hubs;
    • Regulate TASMAC hours and insist on identity card checking to prevent underage drinking;
    • Install CCTVs and police patrol vigilance around TASMAC outlets in the evening;
    • Establish and fund deaddiction centres and helplines and family support services.
  • Accessible and Accountable Local Government Officials and Services
    • Assure smooth benefits delivery;
    • Streamline grievance redressal systems;
    • Create awareness about e-services.
  • An Equal Voice for Women in Government and Decision-making
    • Appoint women officials
    • Nominate 50% women candidates
    • Take seriously elected women officials and not as proxies
    • Vest decision-making power in women
    • Respect women’s freedom of speech and listen to their perspectives.

(The raw version of this draft was endorsed by all participants, and a Tamil version will be added shortly.)

A one-page image for sharing:

NNNU Penngal Koottamaippu Charter-1

Gender Equality Report Card: Tamil Nadu Election 2016



How do Tamil Nadu parties fare
according to the
Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist?

The Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist released two weeks ago offers voters five criteria to determine a candidate or party’s commitment to gender equality:

1. Zero-tolerance for violence in speech or action.
2. Commitment to gender parity (or something close to it) in nominations.
3. Evidence of equal party support to male and other candidates.
4. Strong and clear positions in favour of gender equality.
5. Genuine concern about gender-related issues in speeches and interviews.

Now that nominations have been filed, many manifestos published and campaigns are underway, how do Tamil Nadu parties fare? In the absence of party-generated data that is up-to-date, comprehensive and gender-disaggregated, the following commentary is based on media accounts.

1. On the question of gender-based violence, parties are inclined to focus on protection of women and other gender minorities rather than creating the conditions for eliminating the threat of violence. Some striking expressions of patriarchal thinking:
• The DMK will introduce (yet another) mobile app.
• The PWF will ensure that law enforcement prioritises women’s safety, but they would also like to keep women protected, such as prohibiting overtime work for them.

2. Where nomination of women goes, virtually no party approaches parity. This shows that political institutions are blind to women’s work and leadership.

Party Women Candidates Total Candidates Percentage
AIADMK 31 227 13.7
BJP 15 168 7.1
Congress 3 41 7.3
CPI 1 25 4
CPM 3 25 12
DMDK 1? 104 NA
DMK 19 173 11
MDMK 4 29 13.8
NTK 5 75 6.7
PMK 15 234 6.4
TMC 1 26 3.8
VCK 2 25 8
Total 323

(+ 2 Third Gender)

3785 8.5
  1. It is hard to know whether parties are supporting male and female candidates equally, but three questions that enable us to read between the lines of their behaviour are as follows:
  • To which seats have women candidates been nominated? Are these prominent seats or either marginal seats or seats where the incumbent is a prominent woman?
  • When those vehicles with megaphones come by, which names do you hear more often? Without party support, it would be hard to pay for autos, banners and handouts.
  • Which parties’ candidates are campaigning door-to-door? Without party support, there would not be volunteers to walk the streets.
  1. Looking at the manifestos released, we do not see strong evidence of a concern about gender issues. By and large, three concerns define the gender perspective of the political parties: safety, motherhood and livelihoods. As important as they are, they reveal the patriarchal thinking at the core of even the parties that make claims to being progressive. How do the parties line up on other key issues?

Political and government reservations:

  • PMK backs 50% reservation for women in local bodies and 33% in the police.
  • DMK will push for the Women’s Reservation Bill at the Centre.

Workplace safety:

  • DMK will push for workplace sexual harassment committees in places like spinning mills.
  • PWF will enforce universal compliance with the provisions of the law against workplace sexual harassment, BUT, they also plan to penalise those who employ women overtime.


  • The PWF foresees a role for an invigorated and accountable Women’s Commission.

Self-Help Groups remain the instrument of choice for grassroots change, and the DMK proposes to introduce SHGs for transgender persons.

  1. Gender has hardly featured in any of the speeches we have heard so far.

The media has raised questions about gender in the manifestos and about the nomination of non-male candidates, but this commentary has remained marginal. Most disconcerting, but unsurprising, was the recent survey by the NGO, Association for Democratic Reforms, that showed that gender equality is not a priority concern for either urban or rural voters in Tamil Nadu. The challenge then is to make it an issue, and it is a challenge we hope civil society and media will take up by posing relevant questions repeatedly.

Tamil Nadu’s parties attempt to address transgender rights although their performance is strictly hit or miss. Where the PMK, for instance, proposes to set up hostels for transgender women which may be useful, the DMDK wants to set up separate schools and colleges.

It is clear that manifestos are written in isolation and without an attempt to understand what communities actually want. It is in society’s interest to break that isolation and initiate dialogue with parties, and smart parties will seek that dialogue so that they can genuinely claim to represent the people. In this election, it must be acknowledged that some sections of the media have attempted to evaluate gender sensitivity among political parties and candidates, but the poor Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist showing of parties across the board shows there is much work to be done. A good starting point would be gender-disaggregated data and the demand for such data may well be where we begin our campaigns for gender equality in the election process.


Prajnya Gender Equality Election Checklist




Democracy without gender equality is incomplete and imperfect.

Political parties, election officials and voters must all demonstrate
a commitment to inclusivity and a concern for gender-related issues
from survival to violence to access to participation.


Make Gender Parity a Guiding Principle for Selection

  1. Encourage members to nominate women.
  2. Short-list an equal number of men and women for each seat before making a decision.
  3. Actively seek to nominate a roughly equal number of men and women for the 2016 elections.

DO NOT, we repeat,

  1. Do NOT nominate those facing charges relating to sexual and gender-based violence
    unless and until a court absolves them.
  2. Do NOT nominate those guilty of sexist and misogynistic speech.

Make Place for Gender Equality in the Party Manifesto

  1. Expressly commit to gender equality.
  2. Clarify party positions on issues relating to gender equality—violence, access to justice, access to opportunity and services and property rights, for instance.
  3. Expressly commit to gender parity in key party and government positions.


Vote for a party that shows

  1. Zero-tolerance for violence in speech or action.
  2. Commitment to gender parity (or something close to it) in nominations.
  3. Evidence of equal party support to male and other candidates.
  4. Strong and clear positions in favour of gender equality.
  5. Genuine concern about gender-related issues in speeches and interviews.



பிரக்ஞா பாலின சமத்துவம் குறித்த தேர்தல் பட்டியல்


பிரக்ஞா பாலின சமத்துவம் குறித்த தேர்தல் பட்டியல்

சமுதாயத்தில் எல்லா நிலையிலும் ஆண் பெண் அனைவரும் சரிசமமாக இருந்தாலேயன்றி மக்களாட்சி என்பது முழுமை பெறாது. அரசியல் கட்சிகள், தேர்தல் அதிகாரிகள், வாக்காளர்கள் என அனைவரும் வன்கொடுமை, பிரதிநித்துவம்,  உரிமை முதலிய பாகுபாட்டு பிரச்சனைகளைக் கருத்தில் கொண்டு ஆண் பெண் இருவரையும் சமமாக உள்ளடக்கிய கொள்கைக்கு முக்கிய இடம் அளிக்கவேண்டும்.

அரசியல் கட்சிகளுக்கான பாலின சமத்துவத்  தேர்தல் வழிமுறைகள் 

வேட்பாளர் தேர்வின்போது பாலின சமத்துவத்தை ஆதாரமாக கொள்ளவேண்டும்.

  • பெண் வேட்பாளர்களைபரிந்துரை செய்யஅனைத்து கட்சி உறுப்பினர்களையும்  ஊக்குவிக்கவேண்டும்.
  • ஒவ்வொரு தொகுதியிலும்வேட்பாளரை முடிவுசெய்யும் முன் பரிந்துரைப் பட்டியலில் ஆண் பெண் எண்ணிக்கை சமமாக இருக்கும்படி பட்டியலிட வேண்டும்.
  • 2016, இவ்வருட தேர்தலில், கட்சி வேட்பாளர் பட்டியலில்ஆண் பெண் வேட்பாளர்களை ஏறத்தாழசமமான எண்ணிக்கையில் அறிவிக்க முன்வர வேண்டும்.

வேண்டாம், ஒருபோதும் பரிந்துரைக்க வேண்டாம்!

  • பாலியல் கொடுமைக்காக குற்றம் சாட்டப்பட்டோரை நீதிமன்றம் விடுவிக்கும்வரை வேட்பாளராகஒருபோதும்பரிந்துரைக்க வேண்டாம்.
  • பெண்களை இழிவாகபேசுவோரைவேட்பாளராக ஒருபோதும் பரிந்துரைக்க வேண்டாம்.

கட்சியின் தேர்தல் அறிக்கையில் பாலின சமத்துவத்திற்கு முக்கிய இடம் அளிக்க வேண்டும்.

  • தேர்தல் அறிக்கையில் பாலினசமத்துவத்திற்கு வெளிப்படையான ஆதரவு அளிக்க வேண்டும்.
  • பாலியல் வன்முறைமற்றும் சொத்துரிமை, ஊதிய வேறுபாடு, சமமான வாய்ப்புமுதலிய பெண்களுக்கு எதிரான பாலியல் பாகுபாட்டுப் பிரச்சனைகளில், கட்சியின் நிலைப்பாட்டினைத் தெளிவாக விளக்க வேண்டும்.
  • கட்சி மற்றும் அரசின் முக்கிய பதவி மற்றும் பொறுப்புகளில் பெண்களுக்குசமமான இடம் அளிக்க வேண்டும்.

பாலின சமத்துவத்திற்கு ஆதரவாக  வாக்களியுங்கள்

எத்தகைய கட்சிக்கு வாக்களிக்க வேண்டும்…?

  • பாலின வன்முறையைத் தூண்டும் பேச்சுக்கும் செயலுக்கும் இடமளிக்காத கட்சிக்கு வாக்களியுங்கள்.
  • வேட்பாளர் தேர்வில் பாலின சமத்துவத்தை (முடிந்தவரையில்) கடைப்பிடிக்கும் கட்சிக்குவாக்களியுங்கள்.
  • பெண் வேட்பாளர்களுக்கு சமமான முக்கியத்துவம் அளிக்கும் கட்சிக்குவாக்களியுங்கள்.
  • பாலின சமத்துவ கொள்கையில் தெளிவான நிலைப்பாட்டினைக் கொண்டுள்ள கட்சிக்குவாக்களியுங்கள்.
  • பாலியல் பாகுபாட்டுப் பிரச்சனைகளில் உண்மையான அக்கறை கொண்டுள்ள கட்சிக்குவாக்களியுங்கள்.

இத்தேர்தலின் மூலம் ஒரு முழுமையானஉண்மையான மக்களாட்சியை  உருவாக்குவோம். 

பாலின சமத்துவத்திற்கு வாக்களிப்போம்


Press Release: Gender Equality Election Checklist


Press Release

Vote for Gender Equality: Launch of Election Checklist for Parties and Voters

Chennai: In the coming two weeks, Tamil Nadu will learn who its political parties are nominating to contest the State Assembly elections on May 16, 2016.

In the outgoing Assembly, women have been barely seven percent of the membership. The first list released for the upcoming elections by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam lists 227 candidates of whom only 31 are women, about 14% of their list. There is no reason to believe other party lists will perform better on the criterion of gender parity.

Gender equality is the social and political condition without which democracy is incomplete and imperfect. But gender-related issues rarely feature in the rhetoric of Indian elections, and when they do, our talk centres on protection and safety issues. Tamil Nadu state politics follows the legacy of one of India’s oldest progressive and rationalist movements. Gender equality should logically be a part of this legacy.

Prajnya strongly urges political parties in Tamil Nadu to adopt gender parity as a guiding principle in selecting election candidates. To this end, we are launching the ‘PRAJNYA GENDER EQUALITY ELECTION CHECKLIST’, for both political parties and voters. We hope that the checklist acts as an easy to use guide for parties while deciding on their candidates, and for voters while deciding who to elect as their representative.

We reiterate: Democracy without gender equality is just shadow, not substance. This election, make true democracy non-negotiable. Vote for gender equality.

For more details, contact:
The Prajnya Trust

Devaki Jain on the Women’s Reservation Bill


Devaki Jain, What We Women Want, Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 24, Dated Jun 20, 2009.

Development economist Devaki Jain defends the Women’s Reservation Bill in its present form, saying, “The impact of the women’s quota at the panchayat level hints at what the Women’s Reservation Bill can do.”

With this, the PSW Weblog will begin a long overdue series of posts logging important discussions of the proposed Women’s Reservation Bill and its provisions.

What women want: MPs take note!


Pamela Philipose, What women want, Hindustan Times, May 25, 2009.

Memories of the elections have already been swept away in the hurly-burly of government formation. But rewind for a moment to those who queued up under the punishing sun to cast their votes with the hope of change. Women constitute around 340 million of the 710 million voters, a largely silent category whose concerns have been ignored, underplayed or denied by successive governments.


Will the newly-sworn-in government do more than continue with ritualistic posturing and ineffectual policy-making for this faceless, voiceless and largely unrepresented section?

Social philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum has listed several capabilities she sees as central for “truly human functioning”. Let’s highlight some of these to help evolve a roadmap for the future. On top of Nussbaum’s list is ‘Life’: the ability to live to the end of a human life of normal length. ‘Bodily Health’ and ‘Bodily Integrity’ are the other central capabilities she sets down. The first of these requires nourishment and shelter; the second, the capacity to move freely while being secure against bodily assault. ‘Senses, Imagination and Thought’ are other requirements that figure on the list, and which hinge on education. Finally, there is ‘Control over One’s Environment’.

Many concerns emerge from Nussbaum’s central capabilities. Take the first, ‘Life’. India’s skewed sex ratio and son preference. The government’s approach to what is arguably one of the greatest challenges facing Indian society has been to enact a law. But not only have advances in medical technology outpaced the law; laws in themselves are only as effective as society’s ownership of them. That is why the legal process that seeks to outlaw female foeticide can only work if it partners social movements working to change women’s realities.

Bodily Health’ in Nussbaum’s list takes us to India’s high maternal mortality rate (MMR), with recent estimations putting it at 450 per 100,000 live births. Since the foundational physical cause for women dying in childbirth is anaemia, the high MMR points to the breakdown of healthcare delivery and the lack of proper nutrition. Linked to this is early marriage. Despite a slew of laws prohibiting early marriage, India accounts for over 40 per cent of underage marriages globally. This has implications for maternal mortality levels.

The lack of women’s agency in marriage and childbirth is a pivotal factor for women being in a social trough. Data shows that women who had studied for 12 years or more, were employed and earned an independent income could exercise greater autonomy over such issues. What is needed, then, is interlinked action rather than separate and discrete interventions.

This brings us to the denial of eight years of schooling. According to National Sample Survey Organisation data, school has never been a part of life for over 15 per cent of girls between the ages of 5-14, and one in five drop out by 14. We then come to the lack of an enabling environment for women’s employment. Not only is women’s representation in public employment dismal, their wages are roughly half that of men and the conditions of work do not cater to their specific needs, such as childcare. The sluggish pace of legal reform is another concern. Our new law-makers could, for instance, consider important legal reform, including legislation that recognises women’s economic contribution within the family.

Nussbaum’s highlighting of ‘Bodily Integrity’ brings us to yet another concern. Today, rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India and the required State machinery to assist rape survivors is almost non-existent.

Finally, the lack of meaningful political participation, which, according to Nussbaum, falls in the category ‘Control Over One’s Environment’. A measure like the Women’s Reservation Bill, now hanging in limbo in the Rajya Sabha, can only be one among several initiatives to deepen women’s participation in democracy. A moment that has seen the highest ever number of women being elected to Parliament in India’s history is the right time to start. For those hundreds of thousands of women, who queued up outside polling stations this summer, the act of exercising their vote should mark the beginning, not the end, of the process of change.

(Pamela Philipose is director of Women’s Feature Service)

See also: “WHERE ARE THE WOMEN?” – Women’s groups ask political parties, March 26, 2009.

Womanpower in the Bhutan transition to democracy


Bhutan goes to the polls for the first time today, and reports state that more women than men registered to vote. Check these out:

Arijit Sen, Bhutan polls: Women voters outnumber men, IBNLive, March 24, 2008.

PTI, A woman wants to make it in Bhutan election, The Hindu, March 10, 2008.

Tshering Palden, Women outnumber men, Kuensel, March 8, 2008.
Voting is one thing, and by that measure, electoral democracy in Bhutan is setting off on one right foot, but what about the other indices of democracy, inclusion, agency and equity? Will Gross National Happiness in democratic Bhutan also mean gender equity and the happiness of women?