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A victory for India's women

Soutik Biswas | 15:25 UK time, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Indian womenHistory is full of delicious ironies. The only person who supported reserving seats for women in parliament during the making of India's constitution was a man. RK Chaudhury made a curious pitch, with a touch of misogyny:

"I think it would be wise to provide for a women's constituency. When a woman asks for something, as we know, it is easy to get it and give it to her; but when she does not ask for anything in particular it becomes very difficult to find out what she wants. If you give them a special constituency they can have their scramble and fight there among themselves without coming into the general constituency. Otherwise we may at times feel weak and yield in their favour and give them seats which they are not entitled to."

The women railed against reservations. Constituent Assembly member Renuka Roy said Indian women "have been fundamentally opposed to special privileges and reservations". Her colleague Hansa Mehta rejected reservations, saying what women wanted was "social justice, economic justice and political justice".

Over half a century later, the wheel has turned full circle.

So when a landmark bill reserving a third of seats for women in parliament and state legislative assemblies was passed in the upper house after stiff resistance by a small group of socialist MPs, it was a historic moment for the world's largest democracy. Analysts reckon this is politically as significant as the introduction of communal electorates in 1909, and reserving seats for the "depressed" in 1932. But more than anything, it is a crowning achievement for India's women.

Despite critics who say such quotas are a blow to meritocracy, this affirmative action has to be applauded. In India's largely patriarchal society, women have borne the brunt of neglect, discrimination and violence. Some of it - like female foeticide leading to skewed sex ratios in some of the most prosperous states - is abominable. Things are changing, but the way India sometimes treats its women is a national shame.

Despite comprising nearly half of India's population, only 54% of women are literate, compared with more than 76% of men. At least 4.5 million girls are out of primary school, nearly double the number of boys. Far too many women still die during childbirth - India's maternal mortality rate, according to the World Bank, is about 450 per 100,000 live births.Indian women taxi drivers

Also, with barely 10% of its parliamentary seats held by women, India needs to play catch up. Its neighbours fare much better - Bangladesh reserves 15% of its parliamentary seats for women, Pakistan 30% and Afghanistan, after its new constitution, more than 27%.

Sure, there's still a long way to go for Indian women. Nobody is saying that bringing more women into parliament will change things overnight. Indian politics is plagued by nepotism and the unhealthy influence of big money - there are allegations of party tickets being regularly sold to the highest bidders. But studies of India's village councils and municipalities - where a third of the seats are already reserved for women - have found that increased political representation of women leads to more investment in health and education, less corruption and more altruism.

I remember the sneering men when I was reporting a story on newly-elected women in the village councils many years ago. Most of them said the women would end up as their proxies. But times have changed, and most elected women do not do their husband's or relatives' bidding any longer. India has a controversial record on affirmative action, but this is one move which should be celebrated by all.

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  • 1. At 4:50pm on 09 Mar 2010, intruder2010 wrote:

    Mr. Biswas, you have written ' The way India sometimes treats its women is a national shame' makes a person who hasn’t been to India feel like all Indians treat women badly, that’s not true isn’t it, so you shouldn’t write such lines.

    It’s a historic day for India. I hope both women and men who will be chosen to stand for the parliament seat in the future will be educated and capable to represent the people of their constituency. At present we have politicians who are thick and even some of them have criminal charges against them. I am sure in this blog there will be a lot of comments written about our politicians.

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  • 2. At 4:58pm on 09 Mar 2010, John_from_Hendon wrote:

    "The only person who supported reserving seats for women in parliament during the making of India's constitution was a man."

    Haven't you noticed how few women have their own blogs on the BBC? Men 25, Women 5 (quick count of the personal blogs) Just 17% women.

    Men have to stand up for women's enfranchisement as to get change in exiting male dominated forums the existing members of those forums need to work for change. The BBC has been quite good at this in management where 'the daughter also rises' is quite common!!!!

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  • 3. At 5:27pm on 09 Mar 2010, madhu wrote:

    This would increase the strangle hold of the political dynasities on the Indian political system

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  • 4. At 5:37pm on 09 Mar 2010, H Zadoo wrote:

    While I am against any special reservations in principle, this particular step taken by Indian legislators is one in the right direction and will yield far reaching results. What also needs to be lauded in our great country is the gradual change in attitudes towards women, since independence. The needle could have moved faster, but we will take what we get. The equality varies, based on demographics, rural vs. urban, literate vs. illiterate, and the list goes on for a nation that is an accumulation of so many variegated sorts. This step should take us to even higher greatness and allow our women a platform for them to seize. In that, we all wish them God speed!

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  • 5. At 6:18pm on 09 Mar 2010, U14366952 wrote:

    It is Indeed a Historic Day.India Lives in her villages and at the heart of it are the Women who shape her.She works in the field,prepares the midday meal and dinner.Feeds/takes care of the children,manages the household income.We do have a true multitasker and manager in each of our families.

    Women did have right to rule in Ancient India.Draupadi ruled the kingdom of Drupada.When Rama readied to leave the Kingdom of Koshala ,It was proposed that,Sita could be made the ruler in absence the of a male.It is thus mentioned in the Ramayana

    I am against reservation in principle,I already worry how our politicians will find a way to use mild mannered woman as pawns in the Legislature.I support economic incentives for the poor in education at the primary , secondary school level for the destitute population to reach a level of education to compete on merit.

    Would it not be better idea to have this reservation at the Rural level.Where women have the right to become the village Sarpanch and run the Anganwadi..It would promote better resolution of local issues or rural health,education and welfare of the children

    I even think Women at least at the entry of such positions intitially will be honest and less audacious bilking public taxpayer money ,corruption and would help changeling towards social expenditure like heath education,child nutrition

    Hope this sets the precedent for astute reforms in Judiciary and Legislature , federal governance that India needs for the Rural economic boom

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  • 6. At 7:04pm on 09 Mar 2010, nemo64 wrote:

    Its early days yet...it will be interesting to see what happens to the Bill in the Lok Sabha...

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  • 7. At 10:47pm on 09 Mar 2010, MotaMaal wrote:

    One thing is sure. The intent of the this women bill seems good. But so is the case with so many bills and laws in India. All rules and laws are bent and twisted to suit powerful individuals. Same might happen with this bill. Nobody cares for the real problem which is corruption. Mark my words,wait and watch.

    There was never problem with Indian women and their power. Within 40 years of independence, India has had woman prime minister which is an example for the western countries. Women in west can only dream to head a bank. In India, there are many ladies in top banks' high corporate position. for example Chandana Kochhar at ICICI bank.

    When you see mortality rates of women in India, its not because they are not cared for even if there was resources with family. Its simply due to lack of money and resources that this problem exists.

    Its only distorted interpretation of data that the western countries project about anything happening in India or countries other than theirs.

    Western countries are efficient propaganda machine. beware of them.

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  • 8. At 11:54pm on 09 Mar 2010, geek74 wrote:

    I wonder if the "quota" system in India will ever stop.. Let's create a quota for everything and let merit not matter. I am not against women, but there has to be another way of doing things. If Pakistan/Afghanistan/Bangladesh can do it, so can we....without quota.

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  • 9. At 02:44am on 10 Mar 2010, Raj wrote:

    This reservation is intended to stifle the emergence of leadership among lower castes. The reserved seats will be usurped by women from privileged upper caste background. With few low caste educated women, this is effectively a reservation for the upper caste.
    I don't foresee upper caste women treating lower caste men and women any better than upper caste men.

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  • 10. At 03:25am on 10 Mar 2010, Ananya78 wrote:

    @Raj: who prevents the parties to reserve seats for the lower caste women in state assemblies? So your argument does not hold.
    I think this reservation has a huge symbolic value in the context of the subjugation of Indian women over the centuries. If you travel in north India more than any part of the country you will realise how backward the men are and how they mistreat their women. Women in cities like Delhi travelling on public transport have to go through an ordeal every day. As Soutik says, this is one affirmative action which India direly needed.

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  • 11. At 04:01am on 10 Mar 2010, malayGirl41 wrote:

    An excellent article..Being an Indian woman who has been craving for justice for the past three decades, I intensely applaud the government's bill. It's not surprising to know that men are behind it, as I feel Indian women are generally not motivated to pursue their own rights. They are trapped within a society that practices vicious traditions that ridicules their own individual existence and imprisons them within its clutches to drive out any courage and confidence left in them.
    For eg., when Taslima Nasreen expressed her take on veil wearing, it became a national calamity!. When Kushboo expressed her personal views on sex, even a high-level judge could rule her as guilty! Are we living in a democracy where women cannot express their opinions? Free-thinking women are sure to hurt an average Indian's sentiments, but it's not really the woman's fault, it's the fault with the society and the way it treats its women. Women's voice should be heard well and loud, and therefore I feel this bill is for their good.
    My hopes are not with the author when he says "times are changing". Perhaps they are changing, but at a very slow pace that I cannot even decipher. Outrageous practices exist against women in today's literate India. From my own state, the "cent-percent-literate" Kerala, the same century-old dowry practice still continues for most of the marriages occuring there, although it was made illegal several years ago. The male children are considered by most families as the only heirs to the family property. Women are considered a burden to every family.. There's very little hope that today's younger generation is changing it, as most of them are brought up not to think or act for themselves, but to live within the belts that society has fastened upon them.

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  • 12. At 04:42am on 10 Mar 2010, R K wrote:

    Another one-dimensional article from Mr. Biswas.

    The issue of taking away the privilege of the voter to pick the candidate of their choice does not even appear in the piece. And we are told that we should celebrate this (as we are not capable of making our own judgement in the matter).

    Women in Indian politics have been more politicians than women - take Mayawati who has spent $1 billion of taxpayer money constructing statues of herself and her former lover/mentor.

    Instead of mandating this why doesn't the Congress party simply field more women candidates? No government should be meddling with the basic rights of voters!

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  • 13. At 05:33am on 10 Mar 2010, Naveed wrote:

    Quota/Reservations in power politics will no enhance women stature, but will breed nepotism, corruption and concentrate power in higher class of the society. Quota system in education and employment are controversial, however there is very little as alternative to push the neglected sections forward. Reserving quota in politics would bring mediocre, un-prepared, un-committed upper class to hold the reigns of power. It is an unfortunate bill, designed for the upper class to wield greater power.

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  • 14. At 05:44am on 10 Mar 2010, Dhruv wrote:

    @ RK

    "The issue of taking away the privilege of the voter to pick the candidate of their choice does not even appear in the piece. And we are told that we should celebrate this (as we are not capable of making our own judgement in the matter)."

    2 things wrong with this...

    1: India is "NOT" a developed country neither are Indian elections 100% fair... women, usually gets pushed on the back seat with more of the progress. Which means, they need more re-presentation. Besides national common issues (which effect boths sex's) there are issues that "ONLY" relate to women and a man would not stand up and fight for them... HENCE! YES it is important for them to have this quota

    2: This is a general article man!!! its just outlining whats happened and how its more positive for the country than negetive...!! + the author never told you that you can't make your own judgement!!! DID HE?

    also, knowing 1 corrupt women is not a good debate to this issue... there are like a zillion men in that category. Reserving seats means more passionate women coming up to address issues that relate to them... so we're back to sqyare 1. All in all, this reservation is good for the country and not bad.

    I mean, there hasn't been a "WOOOHOOO!!" change in the last 60 years, when people could choose their own candidate. Women still get burnt alive and die...

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  • 15. At 08:32am on 10 Mar 2010, BakedBeans wrote:


    where is the quota for minority 'majority' hindu men ?

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  • 16. At 10:48am on 10 Mar 2010, Vox40z wrote:

    I find it amusing that the author is condemning sexism by spreading sexist views against men: ie: [...] But studies of India's village councils [...] have found that increased political representation of women leads to more investment in health and education, less corruption and more altruism.[...] Really ? Could it be that those men in those village councils are more altruist and less corrupt, therefore they allowed more women to join ?

    Are you really making the argument that women are genetically less corrupt ? That women as a group are more altruist ? That men, deep down, are corrupted creature ? If so, could give me examples where men are superior in nature to women to offer a balance view ?

    I mean, either men are evil and women are goodness and light, or women and men are individuals with weaknesses and strenghts and they should be given the same opportunities without regards to their gender.

    This article is blatantly sexist and having seen how female politicians behave in North America you are heading for a big big Desillusion. Money, power and corruption has no gender (Hi Imelda Marcos!)

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  • 17. At 11:10am on 10 Mar 2010, Aziz Merchant wrote:

    It is a epochal landmark in the Indian context. In the forefront of this crusade for women's rights to equality is none other than Sonia Gandhi, a lady undeservedly maligned.She stood like a rock when her husband Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated bringing up their two young children all alone amidst accusations and brickbats. Reservation for women is the ultimate need of the hour as women have suffered for centuries particularly in the Indian cultural scenario as traditions have snubbed and suffocated the personality of women. A woman can only understand the problems faced by other women and given the power that be can work resolutely to solving them. Let us herald 21st century as a stepping stone for woman who is a daughter, sister, wife and above all a mother of man.

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  • 18. At 12:34pm on 10 Mar 2010, BluesBerry wrote:

    I smiled at your opening:
    “The only person who supported reserving seats for women in parliament during the making of India's constitution was a man. RK Chaudhury made a curious pitch, with a touch of misogyny.”
    Was there a woman present who could have leant this support?
    In my opinion, the landmark bill may be premature.
    You cannot reserve 1/3 of the seats in Parliament and state legislative assemblies for women unless India has that many women prepared - educated, trained and capable of stepping into these positions.
    I agree with the critics that call this achievement a blow to meritocracy, but agree only because we are talking about NOW, THE PRESENT. Even for men, it is rare to find a man who can just step into a top political position (without the education or the experience) and function with competence.
    So, answer me how many places have women at university in such courses as political science, foreign relations, or similar. Answer me how many opportunities they have to gain experience at state level before reaching National level?
    "Studies of India's village councils and municipalities – 1/3 reserved for women - have found that increased political representation of women lends to more investment in health and education, less corruption and more altruism." Good results for female participation, exciting results, hopeful results.
    What is happening at the Municipal level must be carried up the line; you cannot dump women into Parliament and expect them to make a difference. Once a woman elects to take part at the most junior level, she must be afforded educational opportunities and work-experience that will logically prepare her for the next level. In other words, there must be a career path.
    You yourself provide a couple of statistics that reinforce my point:
    “Despite comprising nearly half of India's population, only 54% of women are literate, compared with more than 76% of men. At least 4.5 million girls are out of primary school, nearly double the number of boys.”
    This is a matter of catch-up alright, but not with Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is a matter of catch-up in female training & education so that women can walk up the council steps, the municipal steps, the state steps and ultimately to their well-earned seats in Parliament.

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  • 19. At 1:05pm on 10 Mar 2010, valkyrie20 wrote:

    "I remember the sneering men when I was reporting a story on newly-elected women in the village councils many years ago. Most of them said the women would end up as their proxies. But times have changed, and most elected women do not do their husband's or relatives' bidding any longer."

    OMG!! Are you really that naive, Mr. Biswas?!! The elected women who work independent of husbands and relatives are able to do so because they are educated and have the necessary tools for the job, which would have them recognised in a true meritocracy anyway, WITHOUT the need for quotas. True emancipation for women can only be achieved through education and social reform at ALL levels of society: it's no secret, everyone knows this already. However, bridging the gap between knowing and doing is not in the interests of certain parties (and I DO NOT mean men in general!) and so does not happen. If India as whole truly wants to give women a voice AND hear what they have to say, we need to start with education and respect... not the traditional version which puts women on a pedestal and then gags them, but true respect as equal human beings. Reservations won't do that. This is no victory!

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  • 20. At 1:30pm on 10 Mar 2010, Muhammad Zaman wrote:

    Advancement is better through merit rather than gender, race and religion, but America's affirmative action policies have helped African-Americans immensely over the last few decades. Yes it is difficult and controversial, but has benefiited not only the African-American community, but the entire nation as a whole.
    I hope the same holds true for India's efforts to promote her women.

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  • 21. At 1:56pm on 10 Mar 2010, smilingVishwanath wrote:

    All legislatures/parliaments are representatives of a country's population. Due to the wonderful act of Mother Nature, 50% of any State or Country's population is Female. I therefore feel 50% of all seats should be reserved for women. Relgion/Caste, etc is man-made arrangement; a person may be one religion today and some other tomorrow. I therefore feel that there should be no reservation based on caste/religion and the only reservation should be based on gender. To start with 33% is a good beginning.

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  • 22. At 2:24pm on 10 Mar 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    A quota is a limitation as well.

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  • 23. At 2:57pm on 10 Mar 2010, mridul_h wrote:

    This is something very remarkable happening that has happened which others rule out as either just a gimmick; bought into discussion over and over again to take the front Page of News Papers and nothing else and nothing further to die its own natural death immediately thereafter or to draw the attention of the Public to raise a false awareness amongst us to show our alive of our intimacy towards the surroundings that govern us all. None ever believed that it shall go that far to take a shape but yet it happened. It is a real miracle ever happened to us! This is the first time in decades we have seen something very positive occurrence happened within us for the betterment of the entire to show INDIA can well do impossible if it so desire. What man can do, a lady always can do better with some extra factors available with them nonetheless the availability of qualification is numbered. This is truth none can deny. However, it faced with a dampener of seeking a quota within a quota which is if happen shall bring the entire efforts to zero or shall resulted into a fruitless exercise. It must be attached to one’s merit while doing of a selection for holding such a high esteemed position. Accordingly, the World applauses the efforts of the entire arena of personalities who had spent sleepless nights to see the bill passed and the said transformation is made possible for seeing ourselves differently while we assemble in the sessions of Parliament in future and forever. Let us take more such similar actions or steps to make the Country Shine in the eye of the Globe.

    (Dr.M.M.HAZARIKA,PhD)

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  • 24. At 3:52pm on 10 Mar 2010, Scott0962 wrote:

    Women make up half the population, why a quota of only one third of the seats? It would seem that equality isn't the goal after all, only expediency.

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  • 25. At 5:18pm on 10 Mar 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    When decisions are made based on sex, or race or religion it only furthers discrimination and is a statement that such discrimination exist. Political institutions should be reviewed for the structure. We have seen the results of a global economy and the devastating impacts on nations and individuals. Maybe smaller is better for governance. In this world if people do not act correctly and respect others there are problems, we all know this. Laws are passed and therefore disobeyed. Behaviors correct problems not laws. If the people want something they can change anything they want. It is the passive nature of people and their unwillingness to demand better from those around them that keep everything in constant confusion. People have the power but governments try to convince them otherwise. Permission is not required for change, it simply takes the will of the people. Turn away and it is the same as approval.

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  • 26. At 5:23pm on 10 Mar 2010, Kaliyug wrote:

    It will greatly depend what calibre of women are getting the seats in the parliament in India, if they are anything like MayaKuthi from Uttar Pradesh it will be a total failure of the system. If women like Arundati Roy, Vandana Shiva and like minded people are part of the parliament then we can see radical changes that will help India leapfrog to the next century. Any special rights accorded to women will make the society more stable, it will bring more rights for women which will then reduce the number of unwanted babies born in India. This is definitely the road to good governance.

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  • 27. At 6:31pm on 10 Mar 2010, Syed A Mateen Karachi Pakistan wrote:

    Due to lack of transparency in underdeveloped countries, people find it easy way to enter into politics and become a MP to mint money.

    The whole political system of South East Asian Countries is corrupt. So the easier way is to become corrupt than honest.

    Four decades later, grandchildren of these corrupt politicians claim that their grandparents were born with a silver spoon.

    The most astonishing thing is that while the corrupt politicians file their income tax return, or declare assets to the Election Commission, they will never declare the actual assets which they have accumulated through illegal means.

    I do not trust politicians, as they cannot stand in the queue of honest people. This is a reality which every one must accept.

    If people want to know what exactly a politician is, then they must look both side of the picture of a politician.

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  • 28. At 7:16pm on 10 Mar 2010, thorsteiner wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 29. At 7:57pm on 10 Mar 2010, Max_Mahajan wrote:

    "Despite critics who say such quotas are a blow to meritocracy, this affirmative action has to be applauded. In India's largely patriarchal society, women have borne the brunt of neglect, discrimination and violence. Some of it - like female foeticide leading to skewed sex ratios in some of the most prosperous states - is abominable. Things are changing, but the way India sometimes treats its women is a national shame." BBC: Soutik Biswas

    How does the West treat its women?! As FFF or whatever?! Degeneration WILL happen in ANY society, it IS a matter of Time.
    Why should this affirmative action be applauded? 'Affirmative Action' always leads to further degeneracy; albeit of a different sort!
    What exactly do you know about Nature? What exactly do you know about why male lions are bigger and stronger than the lionesses and why IS it so, despite the fact that the lionesses do most of the hunting? What exactly do you know about how the West (the so called Developed world) REALLY treats its women? Would you like to debate this issue with me? I would suggest NOT!
    Making apparently nice sounding journalistic sound-bites is the easy way out. Look and think deeper!


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  • 30. At 8:02pm on 10 Mar 2010, Zman wrote:

    Imposing quotas on parliaments/congresses is anti-democratic & anti-republicanism. Today, at least in India, it's women. Which group will be next to have a quota approved for them? This is nothing more than reverse-discrimination. How do you force people to vote for anyone they do not approve of? Don't they have a say anymore in who represents them? Setting aside seats for women, or any other group, denies the people of their inherent right to freely choose those that they want to represent them.

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  • 31. At 9:48pm on 10 Mar 2010, not_brainwashed wrote:

    This is a welcome change in a country which is known for some of the worst kinds of injustices to its women. I hope the empowerment of women will drastically bring these down.

    Here is a brief picture of the extent to which gender-based crime has become a part of life in India.

    Indian Medical Association estimates that 5 million female foetuses are aborted each year.

    According to the Indian government, 10 million girls have been killed, either before or immediately after birth, by their parents over the past couple of decades.

    India ranks third in crimes against women after South Africa and United States.

    UNICEF reports that up to 50 million girls and women are 'missing' from India's population.

    India has a rare social evil called the 'dowry system' in which women are exptected to pay the dowry, not men.

    Then, there is the abhorent crime of 'dowry death' that comes after some unfortunate marriages.

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  • 32. At 00:12am on 11 Mar 2010, Paris wrote:

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain

  • 33. At 01:34am on 11 Mar 2010, krish govind wrote:

    @intruder2010
    "Mr. Biswas, you have written ' The way India sometimes treats its women is a national shame' makes a person who hasn’t been to India feel like all Indians treat women badly, that’s not true isn’t it, so you shouldn’t write such lines."

    Why should not the truth be told, though unpalatable?

    It is indeed a matter of shame that Indians society do indeed treat women badly. Having been an Indian for seven decades I feel very much ashamed that the country which has an enormous potential to teach so much to furtherance of human civilization, has very sad statistics of gender bias staring at it. World Economic Forum 2009 reports India's rank 114th out of 134 countries. It has worsening sex ratios in the 0-6 age group in the population.

    I grateful that the Parliament, though late than never, is forcing a shift of focus towards bridging the gender gap. It is a tiny step, but a right step for women's progressive empowerment and advancement. It will certainly have a highly beneficial impact on politics, the economy, health, education, culture, and society of India.

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  • 34. At 02:21am on 11 Mar 2010, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    Soutik:

    Of course, the recent news from India--is very good news and a victory for India's women.....

    (Dennis Junior)

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  • 35. At 02:31am on 11 Mar 2010, Hanuman Mall wrote:

    Mr. Biswas, with the spread of education things are changing fat and the picture is not as grime as you have painted. Untouchability is virtually non-existent and gap between man ans woman is narrowing fast,

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  • 36. At 03:46am on 11 Mar 2010, krish govind wrote:

    @Hanuman Mall wrote:
    "Mr. Biswas, with the spread of education things are changing fat and the picture is not as grime as you have painted. Untouchability is virtually non-existent and gap between man ans woman is narrowing fast"

    Your observation may be relevant to mega Indian cities and most certainly not true in rest of India, where whelming majority live. More than 60 years after Independence, untouchability is alive and thriving in India’s hinterlands. Pockets of social change have been but mere drops in an ocean of casteism and prejudice according to a a survey by National Law School, Bangalore,

    How ever I have to agree that situation is not uniformly bad though out the country. In states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala there has been commendable initiatives by local self help groups on Crime against women, Dowry, Women's right, early marriage,Infanticide and foeticide and participation of women in decision making. The reservation for women in Indian parliament is a remarkable right step to catalyze such actions through out the country.

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  • 37. At 04:29am on 11 Mar 2010, Jugal wrote:

    A victory for India's women??? As significant as the introduction of communal electorates in 1909, and reserving seats for the "depressed" in 1932.??????????
    This may be a victory for India’s upper caste/Privileged class women not for all women &it can never be as significant as reservation to depressed class because both having different objectives.
    What impact will quota for women MPs in India have?
    Caste struggle will increase, dominance of upper caste and more effort to end/to make ineffective reservation to depressed class by giving reasons like Merit/Economic status.
    For the first time major political parties who never supported & always resisted reservation to depressed class are now supporting reservation for women’s and citing same reasons to support that is affirmative action to increase representation of women.Why these parties do not support reservation to depressed class for same reasons,who are still facing discrimination all over India.
    Those who think [Comment Sr. 35 , @ Hanuman Mall ,Untouchability is virtually non-existent] [Sr.1, @intruder2010 ,The way India sometimes treats its women is a national shame' is not true.]
    they need to check Indain news papers (local & national),to see reality which is totally different.Hiding now is not so easy & hiding shall not be a matter of pride.

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  • 38. At 05:52am on 11 Mar 2010, Moby wrote:

    What if a majority of the people want a male candidate? Do we discard democracy?

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  • 39. At 07:29am on 11 Mar 2010, Shilpy wrote:

    Now let's take it from the top. who gets to pick the candidates to contest elections in india? not the people. there are no american style primaries in india where any number of candidates duke it out in open and free primaries. no sir, none of that in india. the candidates are handpicked by what is known in india as the party high commnad. in case of the congress party that would be sonia gandhi; in case of the bjp that would be l.k. advani; and same for other parites. so, if these parties really wanted women to have one third the seats, the decision making lies only in the hands of 4 or 5 party high command honchos. it is really that simple; no need for law. i hope you get the point. now, let's understand the fall outs of this law in what passes for the biggest democracy of the world, and you can hold me to this: most women candidates picked will be the women folks of these politicians. the democrazy of india will get the much needed lable: the shamocrazy of the world. the fact that despite all this india plods along is the proof that god exists. yeah, a russian communist once told me that!!!

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  • 40. At 09:07am on 11 Mar 2010, Sharma wrote:

    Indian women deserv better than this. It should have been atleast 40% of the seats including the upper house (Rajya Sabha).

    I personally beleive that giving free education to girls/women would have been more effective in order to fight back the higher illeteracy and other social injustices that still exists in free India. For the modern India to develop to beyond the western standards in economy and social wellfare, India can't afford to just put most of it's assets to the male gender. I think this is important to the whole sub-continent. It is further very important this new regulation applies to alredy reserved quotas for minorties, because the womens situation in those groups is worse than the official statics.

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  • 41. At 10:07am on 11 Mar 2010, Artur Freitas wrote:

    The wealth of skills and wisdom from women will prove invaluable to India. Cultures need to evolve to develop countries and at times a “kick start” helps to initiate such evolution. Well done India.

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  • 42. At 11:14am on 11 Mar 2010, mridul_h wrote:

    Top leadership qualities often born to the rarest to guide the entire general Public to become knowledgeable enough while performing their respective actions either alone or collectively for the overall Growth of the entire humanity; not confining the Growth to oneself within the Country and hence we need to carefully pick up such personalities of either sex with utmost care ignoring cast, creed and Religion as well as where and how he or she is born. Accordingly none can attach a Tag of community to the said personalities. If we do so, it confirms a huge division within us to make any exercise of reform null and void no matter with what intention the said action is performed. Hence if a wrong selection is made to pick-up a weaker character with an aim to command a prompt from outside, it might destruct even a well established Institution. In a finer sense when one holds a position of Power, his or her identity as a member of a particular family suddenly becomes zero to take a greater value of that of the Country or the Nation in a smaller sense and that of the entire Globe in a wider sense to take the pain of others as his or her at the time of one's great difficulties to overcome such eventualities quickest in the best way possible.Accordingly we pray and expect that good knowledge prevail in the minds of those responsible to make the legislation so thought of; a reality or possible.

    (Dr.M.M.HAZARIKA,PhD)

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  • 43. At 11:16am on 11 Mar 2010, sean56z wrote:

    Women demand political enfranchisement and decision making authority. India is right when using an affirmative solution for shared leadership. The country must end its 19th century thinking.

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  • 44. At 1:57pm on 11 Mar 2010, arunmehta wrote:

    It a positive ground changing attempt(33 pc women quota) to change the constitution in making the democracy more inclusive and representative.If a women elected in the reserved contitunecy does good work she can get reelected againg when the constutuency becomes open in the next round.That way in reality the percentage can only go up.Hope fully the present obstructive tactics of male members in the house proceeding will get minimised by presence of more women members.

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  • 45. At 2:01pm on 11 Mar 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    What is recorded in history is that when opportunities are expanded to populations in a society that have not had those opportunities before, the overall prosperity rises. Yet, knowing this, those in power are always reluctant to be more inclusive. Tradtional ways are not always things to discard but they are things that change over time. Many customs have changed for the better and what is called tradition now would be seen as a radical departure by those before them. We must be selective in what we do and keep what are core values and adopt them to the present social conditions. We are all half woman and half man. Women want reconciliation and men fear retribution.

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  • 46. At 2:04pm on 11 Mar 2010, MOHAN DADDIKAR wrote:

    Reservation was initialy provided in the Constitutsion only to Scheduled Castes and Tribes, the two classes, sufferers of worst kind of social discrimination and econmoic exploitaion from other castes for many centuries in the past. This was to enable them to come at par with others. But the Govt has foumd that reservation is the easiest way to ensure block votes of the beneficiaries. The present Govt has already exteded reseervation for many other castes and minorities. Instead of reseration for women by law, each political party should hve decided to reserve 33 per cent seats for women as their candidates for various elections.

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  • 47. At 2:55pm on 11 Mar 2010, Krishna wrote:

    I am not sure what to say anymore. It is complex or confusing or hypocrisy. Complexity comes with ages of Indian System where Women are subjected to household chores while Men work. It is confusing to understand that in a country where Women political leaders like late Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Maya Devi, Sushma swaraj and Renuka Chowdhary continue to exercise their authority in a male dominated society and yet women are seen as weaker sex. It is hypocritical where India as a country is depicted as "Mother India" and yet women by far and large are not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

    In my opinion , In theory reservations in general are promoted to uplift the downtrodden. But in reality these policies are blatantly misused by the governing bodies to fulfill their self interests.

    In a democratic country, it is up to the people to decide who to elect. It should not matter if the contestant is a man or women. But even if there are reservations for women , no one would see dramatic results in the near future.

    The fundamental problem is to address illiteracy amongst people in general. Until this happens, reservation policies in all areas will hurt the country.

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  • 48. At 3:06pm on 11 Mar 2010, Rajiv Iyer wrote:

    Hmm It really wont matter much in the short term - because india being a "feudal democracy" where political families rule the roost will see the daughters/wives/mothers/sisters/mistresses of politicians being nominated by their male relatives to serve as surrogates .

    However in the long term , it will make an impact -- by making the advances made by women an inexorable process in the political , social and economic spheres.

    Which begs the question - will the male politicians ruling the roost in india really allow the bill to become law ? It wont be easy -- and as the saying goes there is many a slip betwixt the cup and the lip !!!

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  • 49. At 10:45pm on 11 Mar 2010, Moby wrote:

    The forcing of the "correct" type of candidate is patently undemocratic. Why should any free person be forced to elect someone they do not want? You can only elect someone if you have free will to do so.

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  • 50. At 00:07am on 12 Mar 2010, danendra jain wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 51. At 00:44am on 12 Mar 2010, Tom_in_Exeter wrote:

    A problem with quotas of this kind is that they are intrinsically undemocratic. For example, it may be that the electorate, including women voters, believes that they are best represented by men. Yet, one third of those preferences will be denied under the quota system. A further consequence of quotas is that you do not get the best candidates elected. The type of women who will be attracted to politics, with guaranteed seats, will be the chattering classes, affluent and socially biased. As a result, the Indian Parliament will be even more biased against low-caste or Islamic candidates - raising another issue. How many of the women elected will be Muslims? One suspects hardly any. No, this "radical step" will simply provide dumb voting fodder in favour of the status quo, and is a cop-out from genuine social justice and improvements to what passes for democracy in India - a country that has progressed little politically since the days of the great Indira Ghandi.

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  • 52. At 00:51am on 12 Mar 2010, Vishnz wrote:

    I am inherently against reservations. In the Indian context they become permanent vote banks and beware any politician who wants to remove the reservations in the future. We have reservations currently for backward castes, scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, ex-servicement, children of current servicemen etc etc. Reserving seats for women says to me that they can't unite and vote their own candidates without this crutch! If we are going to do this, why not reservations for Muslim Women specifically, christians of a particular denomination, saivites, vaishnavites, Jains. Moving into the 21st century, the attempt should be to remove existing reservations; treat everyone the same and become a "meritocracy".

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  • 53. At 00:56am on 12 Mar 2010, Kaliyug wrote:

    There are just as many useless men and women in the elected seats of India, all they are doing is defrauding the country and moving money illegally via gangs from Dubai. If more women join the parliament will it make it better? It will depend on what qualifications the women come with, if their parents or relatives have been prior politicians, then one can expect about the same behavior from them, if they are like Vandana Shiva or Arundati Roy then India will prosper with good ideas and a break away from business as usual. Giving more seats in the parliament will help women folks achieve a social status which has dodged them in Indian society, mainly in the rural poor where women are just producers of male children. India needs stronger enforcement of laws addressing the cruel systems of Dowry, Female infanticide, stopping girls from getting formal education, women's choice of husband and family planning, hopefully elected women will help the others achieve many of the goals. Stronger enforcement is also required for the followers of Islam and Christianity, they are always left behind in many progressive circles.

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  • 54. At 03:18am on 12 Mar 2010, Kaliyug wrote:

    The Nehru dynasty from 1947 has ruled India, now Rajiv's Italian wife a beneficiary of the BOFOR scam is at the helm. Recently Sonia Maino's son Raul and daughter Bianca are eyeing for the Congress head. If women from the Nehru family and their daughters get into politics then Quartrocci will be singing the Indian National Anthem and making commissions on every overseas deal. What India needs is HONEST India Loving politicians, not those who dress up in Whites and are transferring ill-earned Black money overseas.

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  • 55. At 03:31am on 12 Mar 2010, Hanuman Mall wrote:

    It will augur well.......

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  • 56. At 05:03am on 12 Mar 2010, shikari shambu wrote:

    Did you miss out a word after "historic"? - historic blunder. Quotas of any kind is a shame. It is sad that 60 years after independence, a few well known women leaders we decide to honor their acheivement with yet another reservation. To borrow "Governator" Arnold's words, only girly men could have come up with such an idea. But, no surprises there the entire indian parliament is full of sissies.

    I think from now on every Indian women in parliament will be viewed through the prism of reservation/quota and their leadership skills will be suspect. BTW, why is it that when Brits indulged in quotas in India it was considered (and, is referred to) as "divide and rule" policy while when the Indian politicians do it, it is considered as "social equality and upliftment"?

    When will there be a reservation to end all reservations?

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  • 57. At 09:11am on 12 Mar 2010, stazz229 wrote:

    As an Indian, having experienced Indian politics and the system for quite some time , I fail to see what improvement this would bring. Is there going to be an improvement in the quality of legislation just because there are women legislators. Will our politicians and ministers be more sincere, straightforward,honest... just because they are women ? If so I am happy otherwise .... as the expression goes.... WE DESERVE THE MINISTERS THAT WE ELECT !!

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  • 58. At 11:33am on 12 Mar 2010, starquin10 wrote:

    Like all positive discrimination laws, it will have the unintended consequence of have women without any of the necessary skills being appointed simply on account of their gender.

    On the other hand politicians have no discernible skills anyway, apart from lying and claiming expenses, so maybe this time no one will notice.

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  • 59. At 2:38pm on 12 Mar 2010, Doug NYC Van wrote:

    "World's largest democracy".

    What a great place for the CASTE SOCIAL SYSTEM
    which India has used for centuries!
    Let's have WEDDINGS based on the biggest DOWRY!
    Let's avoid certain people's SHADOW or we'll be CURSED!
    Let THOSE people clean up the sewage!
    Let's abort all female fetuses! SONS ONLY!
    Let's light our daughter-in-law on fire!
    We can call it a "cooking accident"!

    Oh, but MEN in India are going to suddenly TAKE WOMEN SERIOUSLY
    just because they sit in a gov chair?

    Hmmm ... , maybe another couple of
    nuclear missiles will make us better.
    It's done WONDERS for rural health care in India!
    India's poor are so strong, they're like STALLIONS!

    And the CHILDREN! They work SO HARD!
    You just can't stop them!

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  • 60. At 2:40pm on 12 Mar 2010, Doug NYC Van wrote:

    "I believe that a WISE INDIAN WOMAN, with the richness of her experiences, would make better decisions than an INDIAN MALE."


    Gee! It's just as sexist and racist THERE as it is HERE!

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  • 61. At 5:19pm on 12 Mar 2010, Kaliyug wrote:

    There are comments about the caste system and dowry deaths but such differences exist in every society under a different name and title. The Blacks have never done anywere close to the Whites in jobs, education, social status or acceptance , if you go to Europe it is full of people marginalized after their cheap labors have been exploited and exhausted. India does not hold anything uniques in this behavior.
    The very thought that a woman can represent men in the Parliament in itself is one giant step, it is yet to happen in the West even with all the women's rights. India is the only country where women are worshipped in the form of Godess of Education, Wealth and in forms when injustice has fallen into society when she takes the role of a fighter.
    Those who want the quotas for women are eyeing to get elected based on their concessions, so there is no angel in the people who supported this bill. What kind of women will best fit the political class? I think educated Indian women, who can think independently, have no children, they can walk their talk, brave to confront and destroy enemies of society, able to expose and punish the corrupt people who rob the society of its wealth, women who can run the court system and the police departments.

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  • 62. At 5:34pm on 12 Mar 2010, ghostofsichuan wrote:

    We blame others for what we do not change. The people can change anything they want to change. Everyone sees the world they would like in their own mind, but we cannot have a billion different worlds. Complex problems are solved with simple solutions..honesty and integrity and to serve others. If you listen to the why not's, you will never hear the why it can be. Corruption exist because no one demands otherwise. It is sad that the people accept that politics are corrupt and do not demand things be different. It is self-fullfilling. Dishonor the corrupt and those who associate with them. Clear your mind and open to compassion and things will change. If people remove money from a corrupt bankers bank, the bank will fail..it is simple. People wait for others to instruct them to do what they already know is the right thing to do. Business gives you pay to buy a home and car and only ask that you give up your integrity and beliefs.

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  • 63. At 00:24am on 13 Mar 2010, Max_Mahajan wrote:

    RE: # 59. At 2:38pm on 12 Mar 2010, Doug NYC Van

    To ALL the Indians on this blog!:

    This Doug NYC Van is a glutton for punishment! He likes to make statements which are quite radical BUT is never around to defend &/or justify his statements when confronted!
    NOW! I ask everyone a Q: Would you breed a pedigreed greyhound with a mongrel from the street or wherever? Obviously not; as it simply defeats the VERY purpose of developing a pedigree in the first place.
    So! This Doug is either an Indian (of a certain type/background) masquerading as an American or he is a Pakistani masquerading as an American (see the blog on India-Pakistan talks and probably one whose ancestors converted their religion like cowards) or he IS an ignorant American! Whichever way the cookie crumbles let him/her enjoy his/her mongrel existence! What say you Indians?!
    As for positive discrimination in favour of women it will never work as positive discrimination never does work!

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  • 64. At 06:09am on 14 Mar 2010, David wrote:

    OMG, Raj, Great post.

    Truly,

    David

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  • 65. At 06:18am on 15 Mar 2010, Nekonat wrote:

    Hmm, not sure how quickly this bill will affect change in women's status, but at least it's opened another avenue for women to make themselves heard.

    And for those of you arguing about how "respected" women are in India, you must be all male. As an Indian woman who has travelled extensively, I can say that Indian men top the list for chauvanism and sexist attitudes. The respect they afford women is a joke. The only women they are capable of "respecting" is by aggressively sheltering any woman in their family while treating every other woman as a sex object beneath them in most ways.

    So please don't come back to this post about how poorly women are treated in the west etc. At least they aren't subjected to sexual harassment every time they step out of the house.

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  • 66. At 11:48am on 15 Mar 2010, vivek wrote:

    good one mr biswas...
    i dont know much about what the consequences would be but the symbolism stands out, there is a doubt among a section of indian population that this would lead more of daughters n wives of politicians to come up as props but indians are no fools these days, a certain yadav bahu from SP didnt win, indians have grown smart, and this is true for the ordinary voter, the more intelligent hardly votes, so lets wait and see, time will only tell if this empowers indian women or not...
    that notwithstanding, despite western biases and mispropoganda, a large section of indins have deep respect for women, except a shallow section of disconsiderate people, who are then present everywhere and has nothing to do with india per se...

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  • 67. At 12:04pm on 15 Mar 2010, vivek wrote:

    but as most of the bills, this one is also hastily done, not in time but in preparation, where will the goodleaders come from, we dont want the daughters n wives n the relatives of the politicians, there is lot of hard work required, lots of research required which some section of lazy politicians ignore for their good...
    there are millions of ground-level women in india (and men too) who work tirelessly for the people but they never come to power n they never will, this bill is more of a time n test one..
    i am keeping my fingers crossed..

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  • 68. At 12:24pm on 15 Mar 2010, vivek wrote:

    @maxmahajan: mr duog or whatever with the dfficult name, knows nothing, i failed to understand what he wrote, why did u took so much pain brother, lets not discuss him or his posts...
    he is as cluless about anything as freshly born pig is...
    i guess he is someone from 1000 BC, reborn, but hasnt forget anything yet, a miracle of sorts, he must be worshipped...

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  • 69. At 12:31pm on 15 Mar 2010, vivek wrote:

    @nekonat #65: either u are very disgruntled or very angry, yeah ok, many indians have that sexitude but not all, its perfectly safe to travel with certain caution in most parts of india (but caution i said n thats true for men too)...
    and u just cant dress everyone in the same dress, try to segregate, if u arent lazy enuf, the ones who have shallow minds must be cursed but not all, at least i am not, and i see many around me not the way u desrcibed, and have u toured the world around to be giving this flawed comparison...
    the ill-treatment of some women in india has to be understood and rooted out n abusing all men wouldnt help am sure...
    i have deep respect for my sisters n mother n am not aggressive towards them (much like my dad) n i see this not just in my family from the city but from the villages too, things are changing girl, u might have encountered all the bad luck in the world to be writing with such anguish, will pray to god for ur welfare, trust me sister...

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  • 70. At 12:39pm on 15 Mar 2010, vivek wrote:

    for everything in this world there is a reason, we arent a particular type by default, we are 'made up' on social n cultural context, crime against women is rampant in the west too n indian law is to a good extent protective of its women, the west has a certain degree of sexual liberty which india doesnt have, that explains why the attitude of many indian men towards women is sometimes so awkward, our men need more financial security, a sense of responsibilty towards the society at large, understand our heritage and the right kind of education to shun ill social practises n respect women so that nobody points fingers at them and there is a fair degree of onus that lies on women too n that i leave on them to decide...

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  • 71. At 01:21am on 16 Mar 2010, Nekonat wrote:

    @vivek: Why yes, I am extremely angry, and you would be too if you actually knew the experiences faced by most Indian women.

    I didn't say men are aggressive towards their sisters/wives etc., just that they are aggressive in their defense. Which most educated, independent women don't need.

    And no, you can't travel safely just by exercising caution. You can't control someone else's actions, and women can't travel in buses or trains even in major cities like Bombay or Delhi without being groped or ogled, regardless of how modest or careful they are. I don't call that traveling safely. I agree that things are changing, but very slowly.

    And yes, I am actually giving this comparison after having visited a lot of countries on most continents (with the exception of Antarctica). The only places more unsafe are socially unstable African or South American countries, and they hardly merit comparison to.

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  • 72. At 12:37pm on 16 Mar 2010, vivek wrote:

    @neokant i would still say that this isnt a problem peculiar to only india, it has a lot to do with tropical psychology, whatever, what is bad is bad, i agree girls have to go with this discomfort, but not all men are bad n not all girls are good, at least am not not a bad guy, and i promise i would never be disrespectful towards women, i ahvent been so far...
    take care
    hope things change for our women for the better and fast

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  • 73. At 09:57am on 31 Mar 2010, hackerjack wrote:

    So when a landmark bill reserving a third of seats for women in parliament and state legislative assemblies was passed in the upper house after stiff resistance by a small group of socialist MPs, it was a historic moment for the world's largest democracy. Analysts reckon this is politically as significant as the introduction of communal electorates in 1909, and reserving seats for the "depressed" in 1932. But more than anything, it is a crowning achievement for India's women.
    --------------

    No it is not. The women 50 years ago were correct, reserving seats for women is just as bad a discrimination as preventing them from standing in the first place.

    So-called "positive" discrimination has never succeeded in bringing a sinlge positive result in the US or UK, all it does is create further divisions and mistrust.

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  • 74. At 01:08am on 03 Apr 2010, Svaha wrote:

    Most democracies are not complete when they exclude certain segments of the population from minimal acts of political participation due to exclusionary rules. The United States, for example, prides itself on being a democracy since the eighteenth century but it really has been a democracy for a considerably shorter period of time, a fact that very few people have pointed out. Free and fair elections are a necessary but not sufficient condition of democratic regimes. Who can vote and who can contest in elections is a much more important aspect of minimal democratic systems. For example, men with private property were the only parts of the population in the US that were able to vote till much after the constitution was written. Similarly, women acquired the right to vote in US elections only in the 1920s. It was only in the 1960s that most African-Americans could vote in US elections. Even at a basic level, the United States has been a democracy only for the last fifty years or so.
    Similarly, in India, many electoral districts in India are reserved for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe candidates (from a constitutional schedule that lists these castes and tribes). Citizens who are not members of these groups may not stand for elections in such electoral districts. Affirmative action programs to correct historical persecution or lack of rights in the spheres of education and jobs are not what we are talking about here (the merits of such programs can be debated and have been elsewhere).
    When all citizens do not have equal constitutional access to voting and standing for elections, democracy fails at a very basic level. The electoral district where my home town in India falls, does not allow, for example, any Brahmins, to contest in elections, simply because of the accident of their birth. It certainly feels, in a perverse sort of way, like one is living on a reservation.
    Now, there is legislation being proposed to reserve electoral seats for women through a constitutional amendment in India. This strikes at the very heart of India democracy, by excluding a majority of the population from contesting in many electoral districts. How then can India claim to be a democracy, let alone the largest in the world?

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