Before trying to pose as champions of women’s issues…

Eight things that can change the lives of girl children and women in India.

Please Like (if you do like) and add any other thoughts to, ‘Women Empowerment Manifesto in India‘.  – By Freebird

Shouldn’t Indian politicians who want to gain voters on women’s issues clarify their stances on these serious problems?

Can anyone who doesn’t care about these issues claim to be pro-empowerment of women?

To stand for women empowerment, one really needs to understand it.

Before trying to pose as champions of women’s issues, Indian politicians need to address the below issues which resonate strongly with empowerment.

1. On criminalising marital rape like any other rape

2.  On banning legal polygamy and removing gender bias from Muslim Personal Law

3.  On law specifically aimed against all sorts of Kangaroo courts and diktats (I’m not asking for a ban: Just a law which explicitly makes people who issue illegal ‘rulings’ as criminals, to be punished at par with those who actually execute the ‘orders’.)

4.  On increased paternity leave and maternity leave at work place; and on covering health issues of pregnant women in unorganised labor sector

5.  On strict laws against forced marriages and child marriages (adults marrying children should be punished too)

6.  On declaring clean candidates who don’t have a misogynistic history for every seat

7.  On the much-needed police reforms without which our country will never be safe for its citizens

8.  On sex education and gender – sensitization at all levels

Members: Please feel free to add more issues which are seriously related to our cause and are being ignored by our politicians here.

Related Posts:

Justice Verma Committee is inviting solutions and ideas in regards to sexual harassment/ assault/ molestation/ rape.

“Protection and empowerment are really different things and perhaps don’t always go together.”

What do you think of these doubts regarding recognition of marital rape as a crime?

Making Marital Rape a legal offence is the fastest way to make it clear that Rape means forced sex, not lost Virginity or Honor.

What Khaps need is a strictly implemented law against Forced Marriages.

40 thoughts on “Before trying to pose as champions of women’s issues…

  1. You have a pretty comprehensive list. Just some specifics –
    – Strict laws against street harassment, harassment on college campuses, movie halls, malls, and all other public places
    – Training/reform at educational institutions – our universities have some of the most regressive administrative personnel – have one code of law regarding what is okay or not (locking up girls in rooms in anticipation of disturbances is NOT okay, boys acting rowdy because it’s Holi is not okay – recent IHM post on this.)

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    • I agree. Training the gender trainers (admin. personnel) is also very important otherwise gender sensitization will backfire. It is needed at every level, from president to citizens. Implementation can start with making gender training mandatory in every curriculum (primary school, high school, graduation, pg, any training for public sector services etc.) and at every corporate. In fact, making it mandatory for anything which is defined as an ‘institution’ or ‘organization’ itself will be a big start and bring a change in a huge segment of population. In my view, this doesn’t even require much budget. Gender sensitization in unorganized working class will be a challenge, because that requires special effort and investment from the govt. to organization sensitization to reach out to them.

      We have strict laws against street harassment (new rape laws cover everything pretty much except marital rape): implementation is a whole other issue in our country though😦

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  2. Don’t know how workable or practical these ideas are. Would love to know your views on these:

    Women’s work at home needs to be considered as “productive”, gainful employment and they need to be given some benefits like health insurance and a decent minimum wage to be paid to them by the government – they are after all working 24 X 7 and contributing to a healthy social structure.

    Compulsory and free education for women till the age of 21 (like some member had mentioned in one of the other posts) – to be monitored and imposed very strictly.

    Women with a single child or no children to be paid a substantial lump sum as encouragement to have less children. While helping the cause of women’s health, this will also help control population. Such women and their husbands to be given some kind of social security to cover them in their old age.

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    • I don’t think I agree with your views. Women’s work at home is only productive in so far as it makes life easier for her immediate family. I am not suggesting we look down upon housewives, but I think that providing them with money for staying at home is a little counter-productive. Instead, we can encourage them to participate in the labour force. I feel that if we formalise the status quo of women doing drudgery work, then we will never get out of the rut.

      Everyone should receive health care and if someone wants a minimum wage, they should start working. This suggestion is also impractical because, really, have you seen the minimum wages for some of industries in India? People who actually work are not getting anything, while housewives should get more? I strongly oppose this. They can join the workforce if they want a salary.

      Can we afford free education till someone is 21 years old? Many women opt for professional courses which cost a lot of money. This again might become counter-productive. Instead, we can increase ACCESSIBLE scholarships for meritorious students. We need to treat women as adults. If they want to work and not study after 18, they must be able to do so. By making something enforceable till 21, you are actually infantilising them.

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      • (Whatever I write below applies equally to men or women – whoever chooses to stay at home and look after the family and home).

        I agree with you that women should be encouraged to work outside the house. However, I don’t agree that being a housewife is something to be looked down on or something to be actively discouraged. The whole point – from my perspective – is to respect all jobs, no matter what, equally. The reason why being housewife is being frowned upon is because it is not paid and is looked upon as a menial job. The day it becomes imperative to pay a woman/man to run a home and family, house work will be looked up to. Let this be paid to whoever chooses to run the home. While housework might be a drudgery for some, there would also be many women who are more than happy to run a home. I am sure if their work is rewarded monetarily at the market rate, no husband would be able to pay his wife regularly. If this is paid by the government, I am sure there would be men who would also like to stay at home and look after the family. The whole idea is to allow people to choose what they want to do while appreciating their contribution to society. After all housewives are playing multiple roles and doing myriad jobs every day. They are not just twiddling their thumbs at home. So why should their role not be rewarded just the same as any other job?

        Where does the money come from? From the same source where money comes from otherwise – taxes. Husbands of women who are housewives (or vice versa) should be taxed more heavily to get the money to pay to the (wo)men so as to ensure that they are paid regularly. This would ensure that no woman is forced to stay at home if she wants to go to work. I don’t believe the government cannot afford this. When we have so much money to stash away in Swiss accounts and send up satellites, why can’t we spend money to improve the state of women in our country? Are other countries not paying people to have kids, maternity leave, paternity leave …… How different is this from that?

        The reason why I am a bit skeptical about “improving” a woman’s lot by forcing her to go out and work is because as things stand today, the housework is still not fairly shared. So working outside does not necessarily ensure a better life for her. In most instances she just ends up having to work both at home as well as outside.

        Anyway, that is just my perspective and there could be multiple opinions on the matter.

        As for the matter of minimum wages, that needs to be seen in perspective. The stay at home partner should be paid for cooking, ironing, washing, cleaning, baby sitting, elder care, driving kids to school and back, secretarial work like going to the bank, handling finances …… The idea is not to devalue a woman’s contribution by putting a price on it, but so that people become aware of her contributions which they would probably realize when they are forced to pay.

        As for not enforcing education on unwilling women till the age of 21, I can see your point and also agree to a certain extent. But some way needs to be found whereby those wanting to study further are not deprived of that opportunity because the parents don’t want to spend on her education and would rather squander all that money on pleasing prospective pil and son-in-law with a lavish 3 day wedding.

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        • I was not implying that being a housewife is something to be looked upon. What you are suggesting is actually a great idea in an ideal world. But before we go there, we need to go through the phase where women have full rights and complete choice to work and are treated on par with men. Otherwise, we will just be sanctioning the gender apartheid.

          Also, your suggestion that one person running the home should receive government handouts. What if both partners are running the home? Should they both receive government handouts? What if the children help out the parents? They should receive money from the government too? Where will it stop? When parents and parents-in-law come and help out, who is going to pay them? What if both partners decide to stay at home? We pay them both money? A whole lot of foolish spending when we have people sleeping on the streets!

          I am completely against the concept of paying people to have children. Maternity leave and paternity leave do not come from the government but from companies who have a stake in the well-being of their employees.

          If housework is not fairly shared today, then we attack the problem at its root. We bring up our daughters to demand equality and our sons to accept equality. We do not enshrine unfairness in law by providing freebies to women. Also, if a woman is not “allowed” to work, what guarantee is that all this money would not be snatched away by her husband or in-laws anyway. The need of the hour is to empower woman and money is just one part of it.

          I don’t think we can start paying higher minimum wages to middle class women who choose not to join the workforce than blue collar workers who are actually working for 12 hours a day. This is a very classist concept.

          Women are not educated etc. because of tradition. Only long term educational campaigns can be helpful to change this. For instance, India’s population has been stabilising nicely because the government actually took the issue seriously. Who hasn’t heard of ‘hum do, hamare do’? But at the same time, they really are not interested in women’s rights. Many of the people who run the government probably do not even know what women’s rights are. Just why is it so hard to start a campaign educating people that boys and girls are equal in all ways?

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        • Why should government money (aka hardwoking taxpayer money) fund someone’s choice not to work outside the home?

          Is the payment to ‘increase respect’? Or to compensate for the work done?

          Because those tasks(cooking and cleaning) get done even in households where all adults work. Should they get paid too? If yes, then isn’t it all a bit pointless? The government paying most citizens to cook and clean up after themselves?

          Will households with hired help also be eligible for this handout?

          Plus,the market rate is not all that much. Isn’t it fairer to the tax payer to get the working partner to give a fraction of their salary to the non working partner?Wouldn’t that be better than a small sum of money from the government?

          The way I see it, when you make a choice, you need to be mature and accept both the benefits and risks that come with making that choice. It is wrong to force society to pay money to you for a personal choice- whether that is staying at home or having children.

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    • 1) I absolutely agree that homemakers should be treated as productive. But I think it is unfair to make govt. pay for them because their productivity is not being used for public services directly. Instead, what is required is to treat all couple’s assets as conjoint property so that homemakers have equal say in the couple’s earnings.

      2) If there is one dream which I think a government should accomplish for this country and if all it could accomplish was this one thing in even 20 years, I think that one thing would be to provide compulsory, free, good quality public education to every child. This is a vision which is worth aspiring for – only I don’t know how to do it!! If all the govt. could invest in was this, it is still worth it. But this is the one thing which our govt.s will not invest in: because education means empowerment.

      3) I think state should not interfere in personal choices of couples about how many children to have. We use carrot sticks as a shortcut way too often – If carrot sticks worked, govt. pays certain amount for every vasectomy (and it is performed free of cost). But I know for a fact that many people don’t undergo this – reasons are linked to (a) child labor: more children means more income to their household (b) male child preference.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with all the points except part one of point 2.

    Polygamy shouldn’t be banned. Instead polyandry should be allowed. Regardless of religion. Ultimately this is because I feel that the state shouldn’t involve itself in defining marriage beyond making 18 (for all genders) as the legal marriageable age. In case you’re asking if polygamy should be grounds for divorce, I don’t think so. Cheating, however, should be.

    The only only concern of the state as regards marriage is how benefits like surviving spouse-pension and insurance payouts. I think this can be declared/opted-in for by the insured spouse/employee.

    My point is that govt. should not involve itself in marriage. Do you agree or disagree?

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    • I agree that polyandry should be allowed, its just that socio-culturally getting there I going to take ages. But I do believe laws send a message to the people and legalising polyandry definitely sends a powerful message.

      I think we should add criminalising rape in AFSPA. (Armed Forces Special Powers Act)

      I don’t understand why an army man raping a woman is in anyway related to war and therefore should not be criminalised?!?!

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    • Technically, I agree. We should at some point reach that state of affairs. But I think we will have to go through a process before we reach there or we will leave a lot of people behind.

      What I do think we can do is just bring in that damn Uniform Civil Code ASAP and stop giving religion so much power in marriage. I would rather have the State poking it’s nose in my marriage than religion. Just do away with all religious aspects of marriage within the legal framework and simply have one single law for everyone. This law should treat both husband and wife equally and ensure that no one else has a legal say in their marriage.

      And not just heterosexual marriage, if we truly want to give rights to every citizen, we need to legalise homosexual marriage as well. We are far, far, far away from that because right now, it is still considered a crime.

      Once all this is achieved, we can do away with State control as well. I think the process is pretty long and we will not live to see it happening.

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      • You’re such a pessimist!!😀 I really believe we’ll live to see homosexual marriage being legalized in India. But let’s see.

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      • There are cases where polygamist men converted to Islam to hoodwink the law. At the least Muslim Personal Law should be confined to only those cases where both partners are born Muslim. And even for Muslims, Uniform Civil Code should be an option. It will start a new era if educated Muslims get married under UCC.

        Aam Aurat Party endorses Uniform Civil Code. What about the other AAP?

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        • AAP, that has already been banned. I believe that today you need to have been a Muslim for a few years before you can take a second wife.

          Polygamy has been proved to have deteriorating effects on women’s rights. So it should not be a choice at all, until we can put the religious angle out of the equation. When religion is out, we can perhaps bring in polyandry and polygamy again.

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    • I understand the idealistic stance about govt. not involving in any personal aspects of citizens. But practically in a country like India, we cannot have the govt. not involve in this. Because think about it: Why should cheating be illegal? Shouldn’t it be a personal choice after all, as to whether one sees adultery as wrong or not? Or why should child marriages be banned? Or why should we ban sex determination tests?

      Even if polyandry was allowed legally, our social system will not permit it to actually happen. How does it benefit women in any case when not having multiple partners is the least of their concerns? When they are struggling on a daily basis to be respected as individuals, legalizing polyandry is not the solution.

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      • No, laws should necessarily be ideal. Laws shouldn’t be based on the social context. Because the social context will keep changing. Otherwise we will end up having laws that condone things like marital rape (we already do), and I don’t know, sati or wife beating or whatever, just because it’s part of the social context.

        Child marriage should be banned because we define a child to not have the ability to give consent and we define marriage as something between consenting adults. Therefore logically precluded. Same argument goes for marriage to animals/trees or whatever.

        Ideally we shouldn’t ban sex determination tests because I don’t see why a couple should not be allowed to know the gender of their child. It will definitely help them plan whether they want to paint the child’s room pink or blue, for instance. Not that I think that is right, but still. It is prevented because we don’t want people to abort female fetuses. But I feel that’s a case of treating the symptom rather than the cause. The real cause of the problem is people believing that females are inferior. Sure we can treat the symptom as a short term solution, but what are we doing to address the real cause? Where in our upbringing do we see any systematic propaganda that all genders are equal?

        And cheating should definitely not be illegal. Just valid grounds for divorce. No one should be thrown in jail just because they slept with someone. If laws realized this, then recognition for gay marriage will come along smoothly.

        Lastly, I am really not saying someone should legalize polyandry. I’m just saying deregulate the concept of marriage, let the individual adults who are in it decide what constitutes their marriage.

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      • I don’t think the women in your link had a choice – They probably were forced into it. My real point is deregulate marriage, leave it to the individuals.

        I’m all for lesser govt. intervention in all aspects of life. I think there should be no restrictions on alcohol, and even, ahem, marijuana.🙂

        My mom should see me speaking like this. She’ll probably think my time in the cultureless west, that to california has changed me horribly.😀

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  4. Polygamy is not an issue. It is personal rights. Who are you to say whom we can or can’t marry. Even in hinduism it was practiced widely. I don’t know what they were thinking when they banned it for hindus but not muslims. The practice was equal in both religions! It’s outrageous.

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    • Polygamy is not about ‘personal rights’ if similar rights are not applied to the other partner. It becomes oppression of women if implemented in an isolated manner. Please speak about it only If you are wholeheartedly open to legalizing and practicing polyandry as well – AND allow the wife to choose whom she will marry (not like Arjun asking Draupadi to marry his four brothers without her consent!!)

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  5. IHM the list and the additions raise so many issues whose edges overlap, but we all overlook one major area of life in India at least -Religion. There has to be more open discourse about equality for women in religious practices and places of worship, which would again include several other issues like women considered unclean when menstruating, women adopting the husband’s surname and Gotra (in Hinduism), daughters not allowed to light the pyre of their parents(in Hinduism again).
    So my point is OPENING UP OF RELIGIOUS DISCOURSE TO MAKE RELIGION MORE INCLUSIVE FOR WOMEN.

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    • Gender sensitization should aim at correcting all kinds of ‘traditions’ which oppress women through awareness. Apart from that, I don’t think we can legally challenge any religious traditions. But from an administrative perspective, govt. can send a message by not asking for “father’s / husband’s” name in official forms. Perhaps it can be corrected to parent’s / spouse’s name respectively.

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    • Excellent point! Religion must be listed as a separate issue that needs to be tackled on it’s own. It is the cause of so many problems intrinsic to Indian society. It is interpreted conveniently to serve the few and oppress the many. It is used as an excuse to justify the most blatant of crimes. And it shuts down all forms of questioning and open debate.

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  6. I dont agree with policing polygamy, as long as It’s a choice between 2 or more consenting adults. bring in uniform code, get religion out of the picture . stabilize marriage laws to be just and even across the board irrespective of religion, gender and what not. and leave it at that.
    I agree that only the courts can met out punishment, the khaps can go to court if they so wish .

    I also dont agree to the housewives being paid money by the govt. where is the govt going to get money , from our taxes, so in effect why would i want to pay you money so you can take care of your family!!!

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  7. My addition:

    Recognize women as adult citizens in their own right: Remove the daughter-of or wife-of on all forms. Change all official documentation to reflect this – yes that’s a huge expense, but the change is sorely needed to recognize women as citizens in their own right. Fast-track the circular for this and publicize this change in all media, including TV, movies etc. (is there a PSA section before movies?) – like anti-dowry laws, let this become widely known.

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  8. I have seen a lot of people mentioning about uniform civil code. There is too much resistance to this as it’s a very contentious issue. Here are my thoughts: Gender bias in Muslim personal law is a concern because it is oppressive to Muslim women. This concern not about religious segregation by the State. And the answer to it is not necessarily a uniform civil code (which would perhaps be the most ideal and equally difficult to achieve solution). The answer to gender bias in Muslim personal law is to remove gender bias from Muslim personal law – uniform civil code or not, whatever existing laws should be non-oppressive to women. Codification of the law and removing polygamy and triple talaq would also suffice.

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  9. I have high hopes and certainties about the Aam Aadmi Party too. Your support is very meaningful. I find them such a ray of brilliance shining on the political scene. They have galvanized so many ordinary folk into action. May their tribe increase a million fold again and again. They have defied the snub given by media and are doing so well on their own…a superb story of an awakening indeed.

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  10. Pingback: “…especially Modi supporters who are feminists should watch this movie.” | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  11. Why Polygamy is on this list?

    I mean logically polygamy should not even be State’s concern. Its an individual choice and I am not sure why it should not treated that way?

    Am I missing something here?

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  12. Pingback: How much does this matter to you? | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

  13. Fantastic list, IHM. I wholly agree with paternity and maternity leave. Those should be offered like they do in Sweden – both mom and dad should be taking leave. Leaving the dad out of parental leave means that they don’t get the same amount of hours to bond with the baby as the mum – and these patterns that are set up after the baby is born follows them in their parenthood journey.
    Also agree with getting rid of those useless and misogynistic Khaps, who really have no place in modern India.
    Also I have heard about the criminal records and the crimes against women that these politicians have, and it is shocking. No wonder they do not care about womens rights if many have charges of rape and assault etc!
    Sex education and gender sensitization is where it all starts, I believe. Teaching young kids, teaching adults…how to reprogramme their minds against patriarchy, and setting a tone for society about what is socially acceptable. Enough with victim blaming!

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  14. Pingback: Modi’s wife. | The Life and Times of an Indian Homemaker

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