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Reservations for women

 

On the grounds of being seriously under-represented in the echelons of power, discrimination, oppression or denial of basic human rights by the socio-political authorities, if any homogeneous group in India deserves Reservations, it is the women.

Some persons advocate reservations for women in order to empower them and make their entry into the corridor of power easier. Opponents of Reservation for women fear that power will slip out of their hands and therefore are reluctant.

There is another section which says that all roads for empowerment do not necessarily pass through reservations only. Solution of bettering women’s lot lies somewhere else, not in Reservations. Reservation has already been proved ineffective to make qualitative change in the pathetic condition of other weaker sections, where problems remained intact. “Empowerment” is only a political slogan as of date. Presence of a few persons of a section in power structure does not change the destiny of its majority. These political campaigns mislead people and betray the cause. Reservation is mirage. It is a benevolent gesture of the authority to tame people. It does not give real benefit to the cause of disadvantaged or help in their emancipation.

Women, who are about 50% of the total Indian population, form a vast reservoir of human talent, which has not been tapped and utilized fully so far. The society needs their empowerment and direct involvement in developmental tasks for a better future.

There is deep entrenched discrimination against women almost in every walk of life. Discrimination against women starts even before she is born and continues throughout her life. Unfortunately, most of the times, it is her own family and people, who are responsible for her exploitation. Women prefer to suffer silently than seek help of outsiders i.e. in courts of law or other state authorities.

Adversities of life arising out of economic, social, psychological and environmental situations affect women’s world worst. During times of war, struggle, unstable economy, natural calamities and infighting amongst various sections of society or inter-group or intra-group clashes, women along-with children are the primary victims and are worst hit.

Besides it, everyday they have to suffer innuendo physical and emotional violence. The consumerist culture has triggered off increased atrocities, domestic violence and physical assaults on women. It crosses all the borders, age of region, caste, class or community.

Generally women have to suffer deprivation, humiliation and denial of basic human rights in varying degrees at some point or the other – at every stage and every where, be it a girl child, a married woman, a single woman, a working woman, refugees or women belonging to lower, middle or upper strata of society.

Still most of the women have confidence in their capacity to face the challenges in life. They believe that for their better, balanced and sustainable development, Reservations would be a retrograde step. Despite all the hardships and deprivations, They have already broken the glass ceiling, achieved success in different spheres and will keep on moving forward in future. Women themselves want to stand on their own merit, improve their base by acquiring knowledge and skills through education and training and to compete with men as equals.

What is needed for empowering them is to sensitize people and society, because women are new to the world of work. People have still to overcome negative assumptions, prejudices and religious or social practices leading to unproductive ethos. It requires a new way of thinking, in which stereo-typing of man and woman, gives way to a new philosophy that regards all people, irrespective of gender, equal as essential agents of change. It requires clear policies by identifying the specific problem areas and then based on them, the approach for its solution to be followed.

The need of special attention to women in matter of opportunities arises, not because they are intellectually inferior or not fit enough to take up responsible jobs, but because they have sacrifuced some of the crucial years of their life in taking care of the future generation and serving the nation by giving to it confident and good citizens. They, as mothers, cultivate in their children positive qualities, which once imbibed, inevitably become part of one’s nature and provide guidelines for their wholesome behavior pattern in future. For such valuable contribution to the society and the nation, if they could not be rewarded, then at least, they should not be punished.

Plans for women’s development need to be made very carefully, so that not only they, but also the whole community and nation could benefit. It necessarily involves social mobilization and transformation of outdated patriarchal values. The authorities should concentrate on the following measures for enhancing women’s self-esteem and their active participation in nation building: –

 First of all, policy makers should accept that liberation means liberation from atrocities.

 Provide education to all women in order to inculcate scientific temper and courage to fight against evil social practices. Their easy access to Open University and distance education programs could be considered for this purpose,

 Prepare them to join mainstream at any point of their life by arranging for them short term refresher training and coaching programs in order to fill the gap incurred in their career due to familial liabilities,

 Provide more and more job oriented vocational courses for them,

 Promote enterpreneureship among women,

 Facilitate credit by providing financial assistance,

 Create gender sensitization,

 Create awareness about the opportunities available to them,

 Create awareness about the legal infrastructure of the nation, especially the special legal measures to protect them from atrocities and exploitation, and

 Create supportive infrastructure for working women to enhance their confidence and ensure their security.

After assessing specific needs of women, the Vth Pay Commission has made certain suggestions, like “Age of recruitment for women employees may be enhanced to 35 years, as by that time in a majority of cases, family commitments would be more manageable and children would be fairly grown up….” It observed, “Representation of women at the supervisory decision-making/managerial levels both in Government and Public Sector Undertakings is very limited… Reservation of jobs for women is one of the ways, in which the problem can be addressed.”

Other measures suggested by the Pay Commission relate to the concept of flexi-time and flexi-place on trial basis. Voluntary system of option for serving women-employees to work half time for a maximum of six years in a career, when the children are young and family commitments are at the maximum. It also recommended the government to sympathetically take care of their accommodation, nature of posting, transport facilities, child-care facilities at day care centers or crèches etc. It is required, because Indian Women continue to bear the major responsibility for caring for dependent children and elderly relatives and to shoulder other family duties, their increasing participation in work outside home has become inexorably taxing increasing difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities. In the dual worker families with dependent children, the concerns can range from sheer logistic problems associated with providing proper child-care to emotional challenges tied to not being there, when one’s children are growing.i

If Government believes in the policy of Reservation for empowerment, it should make for Reservation for women. If it is unable to do it, then it should get rid of Reservation Policy altogether. No other section of the society deserves Reservation more than women on the grounds of deprivation, discrimination and under-representation. If women can do without Reservation, why can not men of other weaker sections?

i V Pay Commission Report, Volume III, pp1712-1717.

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March 16, 2010 - Posted by | Women's issues |

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