“When you empower a Man, you help a family;
When you empower a Woman, you help the Society.”
An Indian woman in contemporary times has multi-dimensional roles to play, each of which is very significant from the point of view of modern families, society and the nation. She is a Mother who binds the whole family together; She is a wife who is the pillar on which her husband succeeds in his endeavours; She is a daughter who is in no way less than a son. All these contributions, along with many others together, over the years have helped not only in the development of the society but also in the success of the country. But, is her role restricted only to these household chores which gives her a ‘background support system’ tag in the society? Of course not! Today’s women are capable of becoming frontline leaders in every field of life, be it Politics, Sports, Academics or National Defence. Women empowerment has been quite evident today but much more needs to be done to further this agenda for improvement in the condition of women.
There are various paths that have been suggested by experts and adopted by various govts. to achieve the goal of women empowerment. One of the ways today being increasingly adopted and talked about is the way of giving reservations to women in jobs, educational institutions and politics. This way is not a way towards but away from women empowerment. Women empowerment cannot be achieved through reservations as these concepts are opposite ends of a bridge. There are a number of logical reasons that prove that giving reservations to achieve women empowerment is the worst idea ever!
First of all, it is an evident fact today that the reservation system for SCs/STs and OBCs in India has proved to be a big failure. The situation of these backward communities has not improved even a bit, on the contrary, all the benefits of reservations were appropriated by the least-needy sections among them. Instead of removing the caste-based discrimination in the Indian society, these reservations have strengthened it which is hampering the upliftment and provision of equal status to the backward communities. Reservations for women for their empowerment is expected to go the same way. It would segregate women on sex-basis and divide the Indian society even further which is already suffering from the ill-effects of caste-based reservations. This would make the goal of women empowerment even more difficult and close to impossible.
Secondly, to improve the conditions of women and to empower them, they need to be given their due share and Right in the society and not any Charity and freebies like reservations. Empowerment is a process of enhancing dignity and pride, not lowering it through concessions and charities. Also, the question is whether the confidence levels of women will enhance if they are ‘empowered’ by giving reservations. Women have never been given their due share of opportunities in our society. Giving women reservations, would further take this Right away from them and push them in a corner of anonymity.
Thirdly, reservations for women is another way of furthering the agenda of vote-bank politics in the Indian Political System. If the ministers supporting women reservations really want women empowerment, why haven’t they given reservation of seats to women in their own political parties? Participation of women in national and also regional political parties is still dismal as they talk of furthering the agenda of women empowerment through reservations in jobs and education.
Another reason that goes against the idea of women reservations is its little success till now in certain areas where women reservations have been introduced. Women are currently being given 33% reservations in Panchayati Raj Institutions. Neither the conditions of rural women have improved, nor have they been empowered. On the contrary, they have been unfairly criticised for their roles played as Sarpanchs. Also, it has been noticed that most of their decisions as Sarpanch has been taken by their husbands or any other male member of their families.
Next problem with reservations to women is that women reservations esp. in Parliament might lead to the elected women working only for women issues instead of developing a wide knowledge and capabilities as legislators. This would seriously undermine the quality of parliamentary functions and also the ability of women to participate whole-heartedly and effectively in the legislation process of the country.
Introducing the system of reservations for women would mean not learning anything from our past and current failures i.e. from the policy of reservations for backward sections. Reservations can’t achieve anything for the people stripped of their Rights. It might complicate and make things even more difficult for them by giving them the crutches of reservations. Waiting for a right strategy is better than walking the path of a disastrous strategy like reservations for women empowerment. Moreover, there have been many other sound and effective solutions to achieve women empowerment which are currently being implemented. These include, creating awareness among people through govt. schemes like Beti Bachao Beti Padhaao yojana, promoting women entrepreneurship, opening an all-women bank, stricter sentences in crimes related to women, etc. The need of the hour so as to achieve women empowerment is to bring an attitudinal change in minds of the people instead of giving reservations to women. This will help in providing equal opportunities to women which will enable them to prove their efficiency and skills and get their rightful share in India’s economic development and growth.