Are the ‘power’ful women listening?

We elect representatives so that they would take up our causes, fight for us in getting laws passed and seeing that those laws are enforced for our protection. And who is the best representative of women? Any intelligent and thinking person, why, even a moron would agree that it  is another woman. Only a woman can understand and fight for another woman, right?

Then we are a blessed country and should have the best deal going for women, not what the reports show. See how many women there are at the helm of affairs:

  1.  We have a woman President – Pratibha Patil.
  2. We have a woman as the Chairperson (and therefore the de facto decision maker) of the ruling coalition – Sonia Gandhi.
  3. We have a woman Chief Minister for Delhi – Sheila Dikshit.
  4. We have a woman Speaker of the Lok Sabha – Meira Kumar.
  5. Two Chief Ministers – Mamta Banerjee in West Bengal and Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu. (The third one was just thrown out of power in UP).

So what are these eminent women doing besides attending functions, giving statements, playing blame games and politics, threatening to withdraw support at the drop of a hat and going on foreign jaunts? Delhi is four times blessed since the first four mentioned women preside over their respective offices in the National Capital, while Shelia Dikshit rules over the state! I think it is a capital shame that this city has the highest crime rate. I think it is a ‘distinction’ not shared by any capital city in the world.

Of course she has gone on record saying that crimes have increased in the capital because of the inflow of migrants from neighbouring states and Bihar in particular. If that is the reason for increase in crimes, Mumbai should be the crime and rape capital, for that city has had migrations for a longer period and houses a more mixed population structure. Not just that, but she has also admonished women in her state not to go out unaccompanied late at night to avoid trouble. I don’t remember the exact words. Correct me if I am wrong but no feminist blog or blogger condemned her statement for being regressive. The policemen who mouth similar sentiments can be excused for belonging to the execrable male species, but she represents a ‘progressive’ political party after all! So I guess she is also excused albeit for the same reason in reverse. Go figure!

In Afghanistan Taliban had pushed women back into the dark ages during its rule.  It was only after 2001 when the regime was overthrown by the military intervention of US and UK that the women there began taking tentative steps towards freedom.  If Afghanistan had/s the Taliban, we have the Khap, do you say? Well, Khap is restricted to Haryana and parts of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh with a Jat majority. Are women better off in the rest of the country?  What about Delhi, the capital of the country?

Statistics show that Delhi is not only the crime capital but also the rape capital in addition to being the political capital of the world’s largest democracy. The National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) report on crimes against women and children gives the dirty picture. Delhi leads in rapes – with 414 cases while Mumbai is a distant second with 194 cases. One more statistic stood out. Tripura, has the highest crimes against women in the country. What a ‘distinction’ for a tiny state! I will not go into all the statistical details which is available here if you are interested.

The long and short of the matter is that ALL political parties are guilty of being insensitive to the concerns of women and children and it is about time for them to stop pointing fingers at each other.

Coming back to the question of electing representatives who look out for us, what does it show? Nothing. Once elected, the representatives look out for themselves and their families. Period. This includes women and candidates belonging to SC, ST and Backward Classes. And when women like Mayawati and Meira Kumar do not pull their weight to better their womenfolk, it bodes ill for the institutions of democracy  (not the institution of marriage as some people would have us believe).

Everyone is clamoring for the Women’s Reservation Bill which is stuck in the Lower House because Lalu, Mulayam and Sharad Yadav are opposed to it. But even if the Bill is passed is it going to make any difference? Certainly not, because they will be politicians first and women later. There is 33% reservation for women at the Panchayat level. Has that stopped our rural sisters from being exploited? They are among the most exploited and abused in the country. How many women Sarpanchs have seen to it that their women are well cared for?

Not a single women’s wing of any political party is campaigning for stricter punishment to rapists and molesters. With little deterrent to criminals, how can a crime be controlled? The crown prince can shed crocodile tears over the victims in Bhatta Parsaul but not in the Capital. It is all about politics. Political compulsions make for compromises – everywhere. So why is the Khap not disbanded or at least regulated? But how can it be done? After all, Jats form a sizeable portion of the vote bank. In the times of vote bank politics, how can one antagonize a whole chunk? Political expediency? You bet!

Talking of political expediency, listen to the UK Premier David Cameron on the reasons for being in  (and now planning to leave) Afghanistan: ‘We are not there to build a perfect democracy, still less a model society. We are there to help Afghans take control of security and ensure that al-Qaida can never again pose a threat to us from Afghan soil.’

There! It is out in the open. (Link)

It is only strong political and legal measures  brought in by strong political will that can make a difference to the lot of women. But as long as we have politicians who are interested only in grinding their own axes — whether getting Jat votes or safeguarding their countries from al-Qaida, there is no hope for the betterment of women.  Not even when these politicians are women who are in positions from where they can do it.

So where does it leave the women? On the streets at the mercy of wanton criminals — to be molested, abused, trafficked, abducted and murdered.

Image courtesy: indiacurrentaffairs.org

 

35 comments

  1. Women should stop being adventurous in the night…..these were the exact words by Shiela Dixit…disgusting!!!

    Excellent post once again….from what i have read , the low profile women representatives in the gram panchayats are doing better in terms of percentage than the these bigwig women politicians…they are just politicians , women they are just in their own home probably.

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    1. They would be the submissive women in their homes, for sure 🙂 So they wear the pants in office — at least in terms of being the equal of men in things like corruption and playing politics without any scruples. As for Sheila Dixit, the less said the better. She makes my BP rise dangerously 😀

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  2. Very well said… you’re right. Do women who come into power forget that they are first of all women? They do some things for the downtrodden women but there is no significant change in levels of violence, rape etc towards women. It’s just not acceptable. They don’t need to push men around but they can gain respect by standing up for the right causes because I think women have the power to do that. And if they do, I also hope that all the other women “not in that kind of power” will stand by them.

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    1. Welcome here Anju. All we ask of these women representatives is that they do a little bit for the underprivileged and beleaguered women who elect them. If a woman CM and all the others I have listed can’t make the Capital safe for women, what are they doing there? Amassing millions for their successors?

      Btw, loved your shark!

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      1. Thanks for your comments on my blog! I found your site through indiblogger… I’m very irregular at browsing through other bloggers (terrible of me!) but did so today.
        I think more and more women need to voice this thought in public forums.. just a line or 2 (I doubt these politicians read more than that if it’s a useful article) in a newspaper (I also don’t think they care about blogs or twitter). Hopefully, someday some powerful woman will have a bit of conscience and make a tangible difference.

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        1. Indiblogger throws up some interesting and worthy blogs which we would have missed otherwise. (How would I have discovered the lovable shark on yours 🙂 ) Amen to the last line!

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    2. True. But we are in the habit of blaming all our ills on the male of the species forgetting the power we have to change not only our but that of our less fortunate sisters. But when you have the power to do it, you forget your own strengths and want to keep that power intact, so what if it is at the cost of your on sex?

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  3. A woman politician is too busy being a man. Her immediate concern is to hold on to that chair – stage dharnas, grab national headlines, look for conspiracies hatched against her.

    For Delhi to realize it’s world city dreams, it has to first make it’s women feel safe.

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    1. In short behave like her male counterpart. Little wonder then that she doesn’t feel anything for her unfortunate sisters. Ditto with leaders who come to power on Dalit and minority votes. They become power crazy and forget their vote banks. If only the vote banks realised that and stopped voting them to power! Delhi women are many times blessed with all its women leaders to ‘protect’ them.

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  4. Hi had a very lengthy discussion about something similar with a friend the other day. I honestly feel that women tend to bring it on to themselves. I dont mean to put women down and jokes apart, if women need to feel equal they also need to behave and work as equals. Expecting something from them since they are women is also not fair on them; which people usually do.

    This is not directly related to the blog post, but I just thought I would share some views

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    1. You need a whack for that comment, at least the first part of it. I agree that some women demand ‘selective equality’ but that is not always the case. Sometimes they have to do double the work to prove their worth too. Also, since this post is about women politicians, they are supposed to be true to their votebank, which happens to be women. it is the least they can do to make life easier for women, safer and cleaner. Is is too much to ask?

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  5. One of the main reasons, I feel is the lack of accountability. Politicians, men and women, feel no real accountability towards the masses that elected them in the first place. Sadly, very few politicians are there to make a real difference in the lives of people. Most of the politicians are there for the power, well aware that what they do( or what they fail to do), will not change electoral results in any major way. SO why fix something when it is not broken – by their standards. Why not enjoy the fruits of the system, until they can, is what I am sure they feel. Of course cosmetic changes are good enough for pretending that they did something.

    Which is why, I am quite convinced that even the Women’s reservation bill is going to make very little difference to the everyday lives of women in India.

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    1. Exactly! But it is baffling to find so much opposition to the Bill. Maybe the male politicians fear their female counterparts who might outdo them in corruption and other such things, which is why they want to keep them away. This brings us to the question of minority vote banks. What about the lot of Muslims or Dalits who form a formidable chunk which can reverse poll results? Do they realise that the people who they THINK are their benefactors want them to remain in the same morass they are in, lest they begin looking around and seeing that their lot is the same if not worse? Wouldn’t it be disastrous for vote bank politics to improve their status? How I wish we had a giant eraser with which to erase the years after Independence and begin all over again, maybe elect Sardar Patel as PM with the HM portfolio?

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  6. When in a position of power, women and men are equally corrupt. I have no hope that women are going to do any better on that account. Look at the massive corruption perpetrated by Sonia, Maya, Jaya. The cronyism, nepotism, sycophancy all are being encouraged. Do these elected representatives even know what a common man or woman feels any more? Look at their lavish lifestyles and incredible perks. I am thoroughly disgusted with the lack of governance I see all around.

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    1. You are right. Corruption has no sex. But it is these exalted women who make such a show of being there for their sisters. And some like Sheila Dikshit don’t even do that much! They have become so arrogant and drunk with power. Otherwise, would that woman let her slum-dwelling women citizens live in such undignified manner, without even basic sanitation? Pasising the buck and playing political games to get another innings at the CMship is all she is after. She is the Capital’s shame.

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  7. This is an interesting question you have raised- why are our elected women representatives not doing anythng for women?

    And I agree that ‘once elected, the representatives look out for themselves and their families. Period.’ For that matter, that is what most elected representatives do- men or women!

    I think this situation can change only if the mindset of people in society changes. The way people think depends, among other factors, on our system of education and the values that we as parents/ teachers/ influential adults, teach our children. This is something that we can change in a positive way if we put our minds to it.

    If a change in society’s way of thinking takes place, then probably not just crimes against women, but also other types of crimes will become less. At least this is worth a try! 🙂

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  8. Hopeless situation as long as the present system continues..
    once the candidate is elected he/she 1st has to replenish the party’s coffers and then recover the money spent for his/her elections. By the time this is done it is time for the next round!

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    1. And it doesn’t look like things will change in the near future either, does it? You have so well described the cycle that is Indian politics. incidentally we have a friend who wanted to stand for municipal corporation elections and was asked to submit 20 L as party funds to get a ticket by the now ruling party at the Centre. This was nearly a decade ago. So you can imagine the kind of money that must be demanded for an Assembly and Parliament seat.

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  9. Super post Zephyr…..infact very true…why arent the women politicians doing anything..or are they doing too little?

    its so weird that in a place where women are ‘worshipped’ we dont have even basic rights in place!

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    1. The gap between those women who can control their lives and those who live at the mercy of the society to too wide to bridge. The former are the ones who crib about things like being unable to dress the way they want while the latter category is crying even to exist. What an irony! And yes, our women leaders have no time to do anything for their unfortunate sisters, when if they put their minds to it, there is a lot they can do. Nice to have you back from your illness. Take care!

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  10. ‘One should not be adventurous.’
    Remember that? That’s what Sheila Dixit had to offer on Soumya’s (TV journalist) cold blooded murder in 2008. That is some empowering the women!
    I have come to stay in Mumbai for the second time and I realize it has changed. There is a spurt in crimes, thanks to the “human rights” activists and the dung-headed journalists seeking quick fame. Do you know, the US state of Texas have abolished the traditional last meal request for inmates who are facing execution. This is what they think: “Enough is enough, It is extremely inappropriate to give a person sentenced to death such a privilege. It’s a privilege which the perpetrator did not provide to their victim.”
    And the Taliban is a state of mind. What US and UK are trying to do is to trim the physical overgrowths in the best interests of their people. On the other hand, our wicked politicians are fanning the deadly fire, well aware of the dangers, lusting for stints in the corridors of power. Yes, even the women.

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    1. Thanks for filling in Sheila Dikshit’s words for me. But she had said something again when several rape cases took place in quick succession. All cities are going the same way — downhill in every way. The reason could be found in the fact that the rich-poor divide is widening giving rise to crimes against women — middle and upper class women are targeted in the metros and poor women in rural areas. The ultimate sufferer is the woman and women leaders are spending their time in more ‘important’ things like amassing wealth and playing politics as you have so rightly put. The Western countries are equally guilty though they make it look like a noble thing. Do read A-Kay’s comment.

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  11. A thought-provoking post, Zephyr. One that can have many answers or no answer at all.

    Yes, we have women at the helm of affairs, or do we? All of us know that the President is a figurehead, the UPA chairman, sorry chairperson,is busy fighting battles to pave the way for her son to take over. As for the chief ministers, the Delhi one is busy beautifying the city, the UP one is building statues, the West Bengal one is busy painting over all red buildings white to remove traces of the previous communist regime, while the TN one is trying to reverse the decisions of the previous government, the latest being to convert a library to a hospital ! The Speaker has her hands full trying to maintain peace in the Lok Sabha. You missed out another woman at the helm of affairs– Sushma Swaraj, as the Leader of Opposition. She is too busy opposing everybody and everything.

    Where do they have the time to do anything for any woman and look at basic issues that women have? They are too busy protecting their turf and earning superficial brownie points. They are no different from the maen at the helm of affairs.

    An upcoming woman politician in Maharashtra recently threw the operations of a major manufacturing company in a rural area in the state out of gear with a 3-day visit. She ostensibly wanted to see how it functioned, but everybody knew she was there to get a foothold into the community, which had benefited from the company’s CSR work. Today, she has access to a potential vote-bank. In the near future, this woman politician will be at the ‘helm of some affair’, and will be exactly like the ones discussed in your article.

    Zephyr, it does not matter if you are a man or a woman. It is who you are inside that makes you do or care or share or not at all.

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    1. That was an exhaustive comment Sudha. Thanks for reminding me of Sushma Swaraj. Another hypocrite. I loved the way you have described the ‘important’ work our eminent leaders are doing which leaves them with little time to look at the plight of women. Delhi’s shame has been compounded in today’s report which exposes its terrible record in infant mortality and maternal health. But how can one expect the hon’ble CM to dirty her feet by going to the slums to find out the condition women are living in. Isn’t she the one who had refused to wield a broom even symbolically while inaugurating a ‘clean Delhi’ campaign her party had started some years ago. What amazes me is the fact that the media simply glosses over these lapses while they haul those from other parties over the coal over lesser transgressions. Your story about the Maha woman politician is representative of the condition prevalent in the country today. From you closing comment, it would appear that only those who are superficial enter politics today. Sad but true.

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  12. We have so many woman political leaders to count.They are never concerned about other fellow females.They live in their own material life.I feel myself ashamed to call myself an Indian and my capital city is Delhi… Nice post Zephyr…Happy Blogging

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    1. Thanks Roopz. I see that you are a journalist, so you have more idea about these eminent women. They are women only when they ask for votes from fellow females. After that they are just politicians who have to be loyal party people toeing the party line. And tell me, which party has women at the centre of its priorities?

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  13. AlkaGurha · · Reply

    As always you have raised a valid point. Why dont women politicians take steps to safeguard interests of women?More so when we have several powerful women at the helm of affairs. What can we expect from Pratibha Patil who is a rubber stamp anointed by madam?

    Unfortunately, they are in politics for personal and political interests..Not for social service. Maya speaks for dalits because they are her vote banks…look at the infant mortality and rape cases in UP. Maya remains unconcerned. Same for Ms Dikshit.

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    1. Perhaps they don’t do for the simple reason you have given for Maya not doing anything for the Dalits in general and Dalit women in particular. The women in power prove amply that the leadership crisis facing the country has percolated to them too. We don’t have anyone who can lead us to light. 😦

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    2. Maya just speaks for them… never ‘does’ anything for them… Anything that they get is a by-product of her attempts to cement her place in politics. 😦

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  14. Zephyr, it doesn’t matter who is at the helm (men or women, rich or poor – who will soon become rich in any case, oppressed or oppressor – from a caste perspective, educated or uneducated – sadly yes), they are there to safeguard their (which includes family – extended in some cases-, of course) interest. Look at the “will-she-get-bail-or-not” Tihar resident – she is well-educated, used to work in the editorial board in The Hindu and what she did, when her party and dad was in power. I didn’t see her doing much for women but instead swindled money just like any other politician. Same is the case with every other politician you mentioned. They live in a cocoon, so far removed from the ground realities and are more interested in keeping their interest intact rather than doing something that will probably lose them their vote banks. Didn’t RG do the same with the much-talked about Shah Bano case.

    Till we have a political system (I don’t know the alternative, unfortunately), where we are not looked at as voters but as vote banks based on caste, creed, community, class and what not – these ills will remain intact. We need a sweeping electoral reform where every vote is made to count and make a way to hold the elected representatives accountable (impeach them, anyone?) – until then, we can shout all we want but to no avail!

    Wrt West, I am not surprised at what Cameroon said at all, I am just glad that he accepted it. First of all, why should the West determine what a perfect democracy or a model society is – that he thinks West can deliver that in itself is an issue. Leaving that aside, if they truly had such altruistic intentions, they wouldn’t have waited till 09/11 to wage the war. Instead the war would have been waged when Taliban came power or once their colors were exposed and we would have had those Bamiyan Buddhas still intact. But alas! they waged the war only when their soil was attacked – not before and that shows their intentions. Doesn’t it? Now, if Afghan had oil, the story would have been, of course, different.

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    1. All the politicians live in a cocoon and are cossetted too. But the other vote bank politicians at least pay lip service to their vote banks. While these women politicians don’t have the decency even to do that. The court has replied my post unintentionally in the case of Kanimozhi’s bail: saying that it can’t give preferential treatment because she is a woman since she is also a Parliamentarian from a privileged background. How I wish we knew what the alternative to the system prevalent in the country!As for the West, these countries have appointed themselves the watchdogs of democracy (sic) and proceed to control the countries that either hold strategic interest or have some commercial benefit for them.

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    2. I agree with every single word in this comment. At the max, what they do is, they disrespect the men they have with them and make them fall on their feet. I have even lost hope that injecting more women will make things better. It has only made things worse.

      Yes, I actually loved Cameroon for what he said. He has been talking sense for some time now. He is being unusually (unusual for politicos) honest with his comments. 🙂

      Yes, political expediency is the reason for all our problems. It will be there as long as we are democratic. 😦

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      1. Anything to do with women ‘appeasement’ as with other minorities is bound to backfire. For other than being votebanks these minorities are not benefiting in any way and the sad thing is that they themselves don’t realise it. So it is with women. When they are given a quota it is with an eye to the votes they will get the party and the voters soon realises that that it is all they will get — a status. But your thought that it will remain so till we are a democracy is pessimistic, I feel. What about other democracies which are thriving?

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  15. Well said. It is a shame that women are abused by the very same men who worship Godesses. Although safer than Delhi, i am sure mumbai is just as bad in houses where men abuse wives and daughters. Nothing except stringent laws can help i think. But in a country where the victims are the ones who ‘invite’ trouble,not much can be done sadly.

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    1. But Richa, you have not commented on the main thrust of the post at all. Why are the powerful women not lifting a finger to help their sisters in need? Is political expediency so dear to them that they have forgotten why they have been elected, by a large majority of women?

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