Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In the aftermath of historic passage of WRB in RS

*My detailed story on the recent Delhi High Court judgment granting the right of women to Permanent Commission in the Army and the Air Force. I was surprised to find that the UPA Government which is claiming credit for the WRB, in fact, seriously contested the right of women for PC in Army and Air Force. An instance of double-standards?

*Frontline's cover story on WRB: Contributors, who are on the whole optimistic that more women MPs would mean more women-friendly policy-changes, examine various aspects of the Bill, and dispel misgivings. Sabiha Hussain is on the need to have sub-quota for Muslim women. Her concern that in the absence of sub-quota, parties will not nominate enough Muslim women candidates appears to be based on reality. It is reasonable to suggest that OBC women may entertain similar misgivings about their poor representation in the absence of sub-quota. Brinda Karat is sympathetic to this demand, but feels it should not stop the passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha and is optimistic that OBC and Muslim women will get due representation without separate sub-quota, once the Bill is enacted.

* Apart from patriarchal opposition to the Bill from the Yadav trio, there is a non-patriarchal opposition to the Bill, which believes that the representation of OBC and Muslim women will suffer once the Bill becomes the Act. Those who suggest that it will not suffer cite history of representation of OBC men which has been raising; those who apprehend exclusion of OBC and Muslim women once the Bill becomes the Act without the sub-quota have so far only certain misgivings which remain to be substantiated. The optimism of the former may indeed be based on considerations of reality, but it still needs to be tested out. In my tentative view, the data regarding representation of OBC and Muslim women in local bodies is mixed, and may not be the correct indicator of what is likely to happen in the legislative bodies under the new law. We need to consider other factors like parties' willingness to field more Muslim and OBC women after the law is enacted. This means experimenting with the new law for a few years, and analysing the results for course-correction in the years ahead. The other alternative is to work out a suitable sub-quota through political consensus which will be a challenge under the current circumstances.
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