Calling for addressing women’s issues, needs and concerns by decision-making bodies at all levels of governance, women’s groups on Thursday released a gender manifesto with a hope that political parties would consider it for the upcoming general elections.
Demanding inclusion of development of legal frameworks that ensure gender equality within political parties, development and effective implementation of women-friendly legislation, implementation of all of Justice Verma Committee recommendations and effective utilisation of the Nirbhaya Fund, the gender manifesto also calls for the immediate passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill.
“The Bill [Women’s Reservation Bill] has the capacity to significantly alter India’s political sphere by facilitating women’s full and equal participation in politics. However, despite being passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, the Bill is still awaiting approval in the Lok Sabha and has now been pending for 17 years,’’ N. Hamsa of WomenPowerConnect said.
“The gender manifesto calls on political parties to take their responsibilities towards Indian women seriously and to take steps to guarantee gender equality in all sectors of society,” Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research, said. The manifesto demands that political parties make strong commitments to address discrimination against women within their political manifestos for the upcoming assembly and general elections to ensure that the next government will respond effectively to gender issues and develop gender-sensitive policy and legislation. The manifesto calls for political parties to take an active role in addressing women’s safety, health and nutrition, work opportunities and education as well as taking every step to ensure their equal participation in every sphere of society, Dr. Kumari has said.
Panellists said that the government must fulfil its obligations to table the Women’s Reservation Bill in the winter session and the members of the Lok Sabha must follow the lead of their Rajya Sabha colleagues in passing the Bill. “Only after the Bill is passed will women be able to take an active and equal role in our governance bodies and only then will we have any real chance of achieving gender equality,” they said.
Meanwhile, the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) has also demanded passage of the Bill seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament in the winter session.
Jyotsna Chatterjee of the Joint Women’s Programme, who also participated in the ongoing dharna organised by the NFIW here on Thursday, demanded better healthcare facilities for women. She said that the problem of health services was not only at the level of policy, but also at the level of implementation of health policies as well as insufficient funds for the same.
Nikhil Dey of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, who expressed solidarity with the cause of reservation for women, underlined that while the initial demand for women’s reservation was only for 33 per cent, what was really needed was at least 50 per cent seats. He said that this demand should not be treated as ‘positive discrimination’ but as ‘positive action’ as this articulated a basic right for equality.