Thursday, March 11, 2010

Whoa, Man!

Yesterday as I was sipping my first cup of coffee in office with some of my girlfriends, one of my male colleagues came up to me as said, “Congrats, man. You guys must be so happy about the Women’s Reservation Bill. It must be awesome for feminists like you guys.”

My smile disappeared. My twisted lips uttered “eh”. Then my words finally came out. “I hate it when people call us feminists. Just because we want basic rights, don’t want to be harassed by men and want a voice, how does it make us feminists? Why am I a feminist?”

So he said, “No, I meant that you guys are independent and you know…sorry I didn’t mean it that way.” Poor chap, I didn’t mean to sound angry. I was honestly more curious but my mannerism after being in Delhi for more than eight years (will talk about it some other time) is brusque. Anyway, I did say thanks to him for the sweet gesture.

This started a conversation around the table over coffee and cigarettes. Luckily for us, we are mostly surrounded by men who respect women and supported the Women’s Reservation Bill but there were still some skepticism about it. Like will the women representatives be capable? What if it’s just nominal power? Will they really work for the betterment of the society? Why does India need reservation quotas? If women think they are equal then why do they need special treatment?

I think it is an historic moment. It still needs to be approved in the Lok Sabha and the implementation is going to be a tough task but it’s a start. There are risks involved but its potentiality cannot be ignored. And yes, we needed this 108th constitutional amendment not only as a political and economical leverage but also more importantly, as a social one. We need this leverage for equality because we are regarded as innately inferior. It’s a necessity and not a special treatment because we still live in a world that is, sadly, unfair to women and girls. Millions of women across the country find themselves excluded from opportunities, vulnerable to exploitation and denied recognition. But it cannot be denied that these same neglected women are the ones who form the backbone of the informal sectors, households and society.

So, whatever misgivings there are about this bill, the biggest misgiving is the failure of politicians and people to realise and acknowledge a woman’s potential.

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