By Oken Jeet Sandham
I fully agree with the President Pranab Mukherjee that “Women empowerment is impossible in the absence of their representation in legislative bodies.” He said this while attending the inaugural function of the two-day national conference of women legislators on “Women Legislators: Building Resurgent India.” It is true that we can never build a resurgent India without the presence of our women in legislative bodies. Our ladies are the backbone of every family, society, institution and the Government. But sadly, the male chauvinistic society is yet to understand the importance of their women’s presence in various institutions and legislative bodies.
We have been living in highly conflict areas due to prolonged unresolved political issues with the Government of India. During this long fragile and conflict political journeys, millions of innocent citizens in the Northeast India had suffered enough, while lakhs of them lost their precious lives.
I vividly remember the courageous 12 Manipuri women protested in full naked in broad daylight in the heart of Imphal City and in front of the Western Gate of the 17 Assam Rifles and 9 Sector Assam Rifles in 2004 taunting them to rape them. The women’s anger bottled up over the years against the excesses of the security forces and their anger exploded when the news of the Thangjam Manorama’s custodial death spread. This bizarre protest by these 12 Manipuri women forced Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to hand over the historic Kangla Fort, which had been occupied by the Assam Rifles, back to the people of Manipur.
Irom Sharmila’s sixteen years of fast-unto-death in Manipur has become an archetype of millions of people worldwide. She has been on a fast-unto-death since the killing of 11 people at Malom near Imphal by security Forces on November 2, 2000, demanding the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA).
Today, Manipur Government has a lady Cabinet Minister and another lady legislator, who is the wife of Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh. What I wanted to point out here is that the first and foremost thing is we first need to have our women elected either in the State Assemblies or the Parliament. Then only will their next roles be seen. Manipur had already produced one lady MP, Kim Gangte and also Nagaland had Rano Saiza. Unfortunately, until today, no lady legislators are there in Nagaland Assembly even after 53 years of its Statehood. This clearly shows that the male chauvinistic society has not given space to their ladies. Yet our Naga ladies have been playing their crucial roles in every aspect of issues – be it social or political or conflict ones. The Constitution of India provides for equal rights for men and women and even the UN has declared the theme of International Women’s Day of 2016 as “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality.”
Women’s Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, is a pending Bill in India which proposes to amend the Constitution of India to reserve 33 percent of all seats in the Lower House of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all State Legislative Assemblies for women. The seats to be reserved in rotation will be determined by draw of lots in such a way that a seat shall be reserved only once in three consecutive general elections.
The Upper House Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on 9 Mar 2010. As of February 2014, the Lower House Lok Sabha has not yet voted on the Bill. If the Lok Sabha were to approve the Bill, it would then have to be passed by half of India’s State Legislatures and signed by the President.
When women avail 33% reservation seats in Assemblies and Parliament, there will be more women participation in politics and society and their political, social and economic condition is expected to improve drastically.
I personally believe that the burning issues of the country particularly of the Northeast like social chaos, conflicts, corruptions, inequality, crimes will drastically come down once considerable women representations are given in our Assemblies as well as Parliament. I support 33 percent reservation seats for women in Assemblies and the Parliament.