Women’s Reservation and Political Consciousness
An excerpt from Women: Dalitness and Political Consciousness by Anupama H S
February 10, 2018
As Gandhi used to say, although men and women are different, they are equals. One has to be very conscious in approaching and understanding this sensitive and a complex relationality of both the genders. If one were to dismiss the differences between them, there exists a danger of also blinding oneself to the constructed differences that are imposed on the genders; and if one were to deny that women are equal to men, then it becomes an onslaught on the rights of women. Not dismissing the constructed differences between the genders and recognising these differences as oppressive, this is the everyday question that a woman, today, has to deal with. Today, it is imperative for women to recognise that they are women and being women is not a limitation.
It is not easy for women — who are burdened with the responsibilities of managing the everyday running of the household, and other familial duties — to reflect on the self. In fact, it is considered a sin for women to think about, and reflect on, the self. Hence, the first step towards women’s liberation is to liberate the women themselves. The society and its structures dictate, and have persuaded women to obey, that it’s not in a woman’s place to study, analyse, or understand society; this way, women’s activities are limited to the everyday household chores. They are made to believe that their sole concern should be their husband and children. This enforced limitation also prevents them from active participation in politics. Thus, patriarchy successfully curbs the growth of political consciousness among women.
What is the political history of women in this country? It is a history that oppresses women by denying them any rights and confining them to the household. There are hardly any women in decision-making positions; and, thus, it is the men who have been the deciding force. The Indian society constantly lives with the fear of losing control over their women, who constitute half of the population; thus, how women can be subjugated and “kept under control” is their primary concern. This is true of all cultures, irrespective of the country and time period. Everywhere in the world, women have been deprived of religious, cultural and political rights. This denial of rights to women is seen throughout history. For instance, the absence of women rulers in Indian history is indicative of this.
India’s history is a history of the princely states and their rulers. None of these princely states, in their history of thousands of years, had queens leading the state; there are no more than four names. The reason for this is, women in this country have always been given the position of subjects who are to be ruled. They are only allowed to rule the hearts of men. They were only considered good enough for pleasing the romantic needs of men and nurturing them. Women were subjugated, called physically weak, made subjects of romantics that praised their “sensitivity”, metaphors such as “sensitive as a flower” was used for them. Women were expected to be faithful and docile wives; a good wife was supposed to be so obedient that she would be ready to kill herself, without question, if she was asked to.
Women are made to believe that they are, both physically and mentally, not equipped to face the world. The restrictions that are imposed on women’s movement are justified by rationalising the reasons for these restrictions. They posit that the differences between men and women are natural, and not constructed. Since girls are also part of this society, they are conditioned to believe that women cannot rule. For instance, no one believes that women are fit to be in positions of power, like panchayat heads or chief ministers (like Rabdi Devi). It is easier for an illiterate man to be accepted as a leader than for the society to accept the leadership of an experienced woman. The reservation quota for women should be used as a tool to destroy such a biased and patriarchal belief system.
This extract from chapter Womens’ Reservation and Political Consciousness from book Women: Dalitness and Political Consciousness by Anupama H S has been re-published with permission from the author.
First published in Kannada by Ladai Prakashana.
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