For more than a year now, the Indian political environment has been warm. What started with the Assembly elections for five states in 2013 has not culminated till date. It has been a time of showcasing achievements, campaigning, taking sides, mudslinging, alleging & counter alleging, and making controversial statements. We may love it or hate it but we certainly cannot ignore the great spectacle called the General Elections in India.
It is a time which brings a lot of thoughts to mind. At times, I wish I could be politically apathetic, especially when I see the amount of filth a few politicians bring to the table. However, when we have hopes for the country, it is difficult to remain indifferent. More so, when we have faith in the democratic process, it becomes a passion to see the best woman/ man win. To reach the point where we see our dreams for the country bear fruit and see a government which inspires confidence, the first step is to exercise our right to elect our representative. I firmly believe if we do not vote, we must not ask for our rights.
On top of this, the women population in India today is 48% according to Wikipedia. Even if we assume the eligible population to be 40%, we are still talking a big number. Browsing through news, I realize that the percentage of women voting has been increasing slowly and steadily. This is heartening as it reflects that politics is no longer remaining a male bastion. I am a middle class Indian woman who has voted in every single election since attaining the age of 18. I have a set of deliverables that I need my government to work on, so that I can secure my future.
I do not simply want jobs for women. I want jobs for women in an environment that respects them. An environment that does not differentiate between men and women; which believes both to be equally capable of carrying out any role; which does not pass snide remarks on women; which does not adhere to the classical touch of being the ‘boys’ playground’. I want environments where women are not commented upon for their choice of clothes; where they are not looked down upon because they want a flexible schedule to take care of a young one; where they are not passed over for promotion because they may leave the job when they get married/ have a kid; where they are not provided opportunities because they cannot travel or work late nights; where they do not have to compromise their dignity to achieve a laurel. Enough laws have been passed to prevent gender discrimination but the implementation is wanting for more. How much can the government do? It can start with its own offices- where ‘madamji’ is as important as ‘sarkaari babu’. When the government goes about creating jobs, it can ensure the implementation of gender-sensitive guidelines and laws is complete. It can pull up the courts for delivering justice on gender discrimination and sexual harassment cases. Lastly, it can reinforce its commitment by extending the same respect and support to the women in and around it.
I want safety for women. Oh yes, ‘that’ word that screams out of newspapers every time a rape is reported. But I am not speaking of the physical safety alone. I talk of mental and emotional safety. A number of women are the victims of cybercrimes, ranging from character assassination to blackmail to physical threats. Almost all of us have been subject to that one obscene call or email or Orkut post where a man explained with pleasure how he would like to ‘handle’ us. I know of women whose details were put on pornographic sites. I know of women whose GTalk and WhatsApp accounts were hacked and their private conversations leaked. There is no physical harm involved in these incidents but the emotional trauma that a woman undergoes is difficult to explain. She lives in fear for the rest of her life and perhaps develops an aversion to technology, which would otherwise be an enabler for her. She does not report all of this because she knows she will be advised to let it go. And God forbid if she does, she will be humiliated further with aspersions on her character. Yet, if a brave soul still persists, our laws will be inadequate to address these kinds of crimes. My dear future government, I need you to secure my future by ensuring I am safe-physically, mentally and emotionally.
Fortunately, I belong to the section of society which does not commit selective abortion. However, parts of this section still do consider girls with a little less generosity. I see would-be mothers who want to have a male child. I see new mothers who admonish their little daughters indulgently but reminding them that they are not ‘boys’. I see older parents fretting over their daughters, trying to get them married and settled, then losing sleep over finding a suitable boy, and finally aging prematurely thinking about meeting the marriage expenses. Yes, this is 2014. Yes, this is the middle class I am talking about. Yes, this still happens. Can my new government come down heavily on sex determination, selective abortion and female infanticide? Can my new government take away the stigma of being a girl child? Can my new government ensure girls have the right to choose what they want to do with their lives? Can my new government ensure weddings are about lifelong bonds rather than dowries? It is not about the laws-ample existing already. It is about implementation.
My demands are not easy. But then, the path to greatness is fraught with difficulties. The government that comes to power in May 2014 can create history, if it wants. I have a few other demands too but they are gender-neutral. So I am sure they will get covered by somebody out there. I want my future secure. I want the women of my country to be respected. I want our girls to be safe. Is this too much to ask for? Perhaps…
Submitted for Blogging Contest to http://www.smartindianwomen.com.