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This Seat Is Taken | Laila Dastur Haksar

imgresIn India’s continued efforts to bring equality to women in politics, Sumitra Mahajaner, the Speaker of India’s Lok Sabha, announced that the government is working towards reserving one third of Parliamentary and Legislative Assembly seats for women.

Mahajaner is in Geneva speaking on ‘Achieving Gender Equality, Ending Violence Against Women‘ at the 131st Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).

“Women are the unwavering pillars of society, and the worth of any civilisation can be judged from the position it gives to women,” correctly stated Mahajaner. Believing that India’s worth is growing by extending women more equalities, she called India a ‘pioneer’ in its declaration to reserve one third of Assembly and Parliamentary seats for women.

“Indian laws and policies have helped create a conducive environment for empowering women economically and socially”, Mahajaner added. She believes that the National Parliaments are the Indian people’s representative bodies and therefore, these bodies are the best institutions to help uplift the status of women.

While praising the noble initiatives of the IPU member countries, Mahajaner observed that the real need is to change the traditional mind-set and to treat women as equal humans. This also raises the common criticism of qualification of female candidates because they are seen as unequal to their male counterparts.

This concern was also raised when India Inc announced that at minimum one board member had to be female. The glaring issue which arose was the loophole that many large corporations used. Biased in their views towards women with possible lack of talent or qualification, these corporates often turned to family members to fit the quota. This maligns the entire system. See here for further information.

So how do we change the mentality?

Mahajaner impressed upon the need for us all, men and women, to join hands together to eliminate all forms of gender-based inequalities and violence for sustainable peace and prosperity in our societies. Additionally, as with India Inc, women’s programs and initiatives to train women must be put into place. This will eliminate any concern of under qualification for government or business positions.

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