Delhi polls: Parties talk big but keep women out

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : The national capital is plastered with posters promising safety to women and the issue figures big in party manifestos but very few women have made it to the candidates’list for the Dec 4 Delhi assembly polls.

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    According to an analysis by the Association for Democratic Reforms, there are only 69 women among the 796 candidates fielded by the major parties including the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

    This is a dismal 9 percent, much lower than the 33 percent reservation sought by the pending bill that proposes that seats be reserved for women in state assemblies and parliament.

    Among the major political parties, the Congress and the AAP have fielded six candidates each while five women are contesting on Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) tickets.

    In the 70-member Delhi Assembly, there are presently only three women representatives — Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, Kiran Walia and Barkha Singh.

    In a revealing fact about the problems women face, atleast 13 candidates have declared crimes against women, including BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Harsh Vardhan who has been booked on a charge related to word, gesture, or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.

    Of the others, nine have declared charges related to assault or criminal force against a woman with intent to outrage her modesty (IPC Section-354).

    One candidate has declared a case related to the husband or relative of the husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty (IPC Section – 498A) while another candidate declared a case of causing miscarriage without the woman’s consent (IPC Section- 313).

    “The political parties want women to vote for them but they will not field women candidates… The only argument that comes from the political parties is that a candidate that can win will be given the ticket and that is how criminals and tainted people become candidates,” says social activist Ranjana Kumari.

    “Those with criminal background can bully or buy the votes and that way half of the population is pushed away from decision making,” Ranjana Kumari told IANS.

    Activists say the solution lies in the passage of the women’s reservation bill.

    Says National Federation of Indian Women general secretary Annie Raja: “Keeping women out of decision making makes the whole nation suffer. However, equality in politics has not been achieved in the last 65 years and it will never happen on it’s own.”

    “Women’s reservation bill is the only way. Political parties, irrespective of ideology, have many justifications for not giving enough seats to women. You cannot have meaningful democracy if half of the population is left out,” Annie Raja told IANS.

    Commenting on the issue, BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi said that her party had given reservation in party posts to women but when it came to elections they had to choose popular candidates.

    “Our party has been gender just in its approach, giving women 33 percent reservation within the party structure. However, the problem is that women have been traditionally left out of politics,” said Lekhi.

    “There are several socio-economic reasons which have kept women away from active politics. When it comes to elections, it is only winnability of the candidate which can get you tickets. Sometimes there is a severe competition and women lose out for many reasons,” Lekhi said.