Every time elections roll around, there is buzz about the paltry handful of tickets given to women candidates. Before anything can be done about it, the whataboutery kicks in with random, non sequitur and entirely arbitrary hoaxes that pass off as salient truths.
So here are some truth bombs for all the whatabouters out there. Let me break some stuff down for you.
Hoax #1: Women politicians are dummies.
Make up your mind. If nephews and sons are proxies or dynastic, since we have scores more of those, wives and daughters then, are the same. It can’t be nepotism when it’s men and ‘dummies’ when it’s women. Legacy when male, and puppetry when female. Are sons blazing their own political paths so variant from fathers, or slavishly following well tread steps?
Hoax #2: How can we allow corrupt women to be elected?
The same way we allow corrupt, nay criminal men to be elected. Time and time again. Their own affidavits show that a boggling one third of male Parliamentarians are criminal. Are we holding her to higher standards than him? Are we predicating her candidature just because she is female? Nice try, but corruption and criminality are orthogonal to gender.
Hoax #3: Why elect women? What has that Chief Minister/Prime Minister ever done for other women?
Here’s news for you. Women compete to win elections, just like men. And to govern as they please, also like men. Their primary motive isn’t altruism. She deserves to be elected, at least upto 50%, just because India is a representative democracy. She doesn't need to do something for women; her presence in critical mass in Assemblies and Parliament is "the" thing for the women of India.
Hoax #4: How can you support Right/Left Wing women? They will spoil the country.
Then why are we electing men of these ideologies? Women have a right to ideological choice, just as men do. Whether they win or not is the voters' decision, not ours to precondition.
Hoax #5: OK, but women don't have the experience to govern.
Uh huh? Look around you. Public education is in shambles; where once the creme de la creme of India graduated public schools, we wouldn't deign to send our children. Public health is even worse. Financial institutions and banks are in the red; infrastructure from water to power, roads to sanitation, are designed for medieval times, while law and order is anything but that. That is 70 years of 90% male dominated governance. What were you saying about competence?
Aren't we quite the Chinese in creating near real fakes!
Truth #1: Let's face it. What we have now is a Man-liament, not a Parliament.
An impregnable, nearly all-male body, legislates women's bodies with the Surrogacy Bill. One that decides the fate of Muslim women without a single one in the room, fixes what sanitary napkins should cost… the list is endless, no period required.
When politics runs on testosterone instead of diversity, no surprise that policies are dominated by partisan politics? Cows in classrooms even as children don't have benches, roofs or toilets in schools. Luxury trains even as Railways employees hand scavenge excreta dropped on the tracks!
Truth #2: The answer lies in inclusivity. Diversity guarantees better. How?
It balances partisan, and precludes monotonic vision. Rapes are not women's issues, they are law and order problems. Children dying in hospitals, burning lakes, jobless youth, failing banks – all of these chronic, complex issues could benefit from fresh thought and action. Absent lived experiences and diversity of perspectives of every section of the demographic, laws and their implementation remain lopsided and inadequate.
After all, 50% of the talent pool is untapped in running this country.
In the most direct terms, Parliament does not look like a microcosm of Indian society, it looks like a rich, male club. In medieval times, this exact configuration was called, not Parliament, but feudal.
The way forward
The remedy we need to make as the voting public is to pressure political parties to stop peddling recycled male leaders that propagate myths, and start fielding women. We need to start voting for women – whether independents or belonging to a party – quite deliberately, to signal the need for balance, until it reaches a critical mass of women in the Assemblies and Parliament.
Then, watch the difference.
The author is a co-founder of Shakti - Political Power To Women, a non partisan group working on exactly this. The author is a co-founder of Citizens for Bengaluru. Views expressed are the author’s own.