By Sanya Dhingra, theviewspaper.net
The election results have come out, and it is amply clear that this election has created history. As a feminist disillusioned with an absolute neglect of the gender issue in Indian politics, for me, the most positive aspect about the 2015 Delhi elections was the emphatic assertion of the women’s issues as an integral part of the election campaigns of all the three major parties. Women were considered a vote bank that needed to be appealed to, and to my mind, that is a massive achievement in itself for Indian politics.
We got in touch with the Delhi University’s Gender Studies Group and asked its members what they feel about how the issue of gender was dealt with in these elections, and this is what they had to say:
All the parties’ election manifesto saw women in a very protectionist framework – more CCTVs, Surveillance, police force, which has its own limitations. What is needed to be understood is that women need freedom and not protection. This nuanced understanding is still missing from most of the party manifestos.
The AAP manifesto did promise safety for women, the usual candy manifesto, which may appeal to some. However, we have not forgotten the khirki incident and Kumar Vishwas’s racist comments on South Indian nurses. We nevertheless support AAP because at least they don’t tell women that they’d shove rods inside them if they oppose Modi, something which ABVP (BJP’s Student Wing) told female students who were protesting Modi’s visit to SRCC back in 2013. Also, we really don’t want to be married off on February 14 for holding hands with our partners in public, as threatened by Hindu Mahasabha which BJP supports and is a part of!
The discourse around Hindutva has come to dominate once again in the last few months, and we feel threatened by this ideology and those who propagate it. It is needless to say that Hindutva is deeply regressive for any society, and most specifically for those who are already oppressed; women, for instance, are no more than child bearers for the votaries of this ideology. The likes of Sakshi Maharaj vitiate the political discourse of the country, and the fact that they are allowed to remain members of the party that rules the country, disgusts us. For, directly or indirectly, this gives their bigotry the legitimacy of the state.
Local acknowledgement can be a start to national level action, especially in the national capital. Section 377 has received public as well as media attention, but what is needed is that it be denounced by the government in power. The Supreme Court now officially recognises the Third Gender, but without public sensitization, true acceptance cannot actualise. Gender equality will be realised only when the state itself openly acknowledges sexual minorities and the inequalities they have suffered in a repressed society. Something which any government should realize and work for. However, the question of Sexual minorities was completely missing from any party’s manifesto or campaigning.
Another thing which is noteworthy here is the extremely prudish and homophobic stance Kiran Bedi, BJP’s CM Candidate, took years ago. Not many people may be aware, but in the 90s, Bedi refused to distribute condoms in Tihar Jail, and said she did not consider homosexuality as normal human behavior. She also said that she would increase surveillance in the jails against ‘such activities’ and would prescribe counseling for ‘such people.’ Since then the much celebrated former IPS officer (perhaps, deliberately) has not cleared her stand on the issue. Congress and AAP, on the other hand, have both come out with statements condemning the SC judgment of 2013 which reinstated section 377, something we welcome.