Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

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Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:18 pm

BBC NEWS
Indian MPs approve women's bill

The upper house of India's parliament has approved a bill to reserve a third of all seats in the national parliament and state legislatures for women.

The bill was passed with 186 members of the 245-seat house voting in favour. Only one member voted against. Several smaller parties boycotted the vote.

The bill was introduced on Monday amid uproar from opponents, resulting in the suspension of seven MPs on Tuesday.

First proposed in 1996, the bill now has support from India's main parties.

ANALYSIS
By Soutik Biswas BBC News, Delhi

This is one affirmative action which large parts of India does support.

India does have some measures to support its women, but in a largely patriarchal society they have borne the brunt of neglect and discrimination.

Acts such as female foeticide leading to skewed sex ratios in some of the most prosperous states are abominable. Things are changing, but the way India sometimes treats its women is a national shame.

Also, with just 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%.


At present women make up just 10% of the lower house (Lok Sabha) of parliament, and significantly fewer in state assemblies.

Sonia Gandhi, Congress party president, has said she attaches the "highest importance" to the proposals and passing them would be a "gift to the women of India".

This bill needed the support of two-thirds of voters present in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) for it to be passed.

The proposals will be tabled in the lower house at a later date. An overwhelming majority there support the move, correspondents say.

The bill has the support of the governing Congress-led UPA alliance, the BJP-led NDA alliance and left-wing parties.

'Historic'

Party leaders hailed the passing of the bill.

"The bill is a historic and giant step towards empowering women and a celebration of their rights," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Rajya Sabha.

"Women are facing discrimination at home, there is domestic violence, unequal access to health and education. This has to end," he said.

Communist leader Brinda Karat said it would change the "culture of the country because women today are still caught in a culture prison".

"In the name of tradition, stereotypes are imposed and we have to fight these every day," she said.

The Congress party's Jayanthi Natarajan said "women have been waiting for 62 years for this moment".

The bill's passage through the upper house has been marked by scenes of chaos since it was tabled on Monday.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Arun Jaitley, speaking in parliament on Tuesday, said the uproar was "one of the most shameful moments in India's parliamentary democracy".

Earlier, seven MPs had been forcibly removed from the upper house by security guards, after they refused to leave having been suspended for disorderly behaviour.

The MPs had shouted slogans, snatched papers from Vice President Hamid Ansari's table, torn them and thrown them at him.

FROM GLOBAL VOICES
“ Such a policy is likely to increase the pool of talent needed at the top of our political class ”
Dweep at Desicritics “

[This is] not going to lead to the empowerment of ordinary Indian women... all that it is going to do is to make political gharanas (dynasties) even more powerful ”
Vinod Sharma, India Retold


The MPs are all members of three parties opposing the women's bill: the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Loktantric Janata Party (LJP).

While India's main parties back the legislation, smaller socialist parties argue it will reduce representation of minorities and socially disadvantaged groups.

They want set quotas for women from Muslim and low-caste communities.

There are currently 59 women in the 545-member Lok Sabha. Under the proposals their numbers would rise to 181.

The composition of the 245-seat upper house, which at present has 21 women, will not be affected as its members are indirectly elected by state assemblies.

India already reserves a third of local governing council seats in towns and villages for women, a move that has significantly increased their role in decision-making.
Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/s ... 557237.stm

Published: 2010/03/09 14:06:03 GMT

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:21 pm

Although I am happy to see women's welfare take center stage over that of caste and other regional based politics in India, I am torn on this topic. On one hand it looks like a good step to promoting the opportunities that women have in politics... but I agree whole heartedly with the opinion of Vinod Sharma (Quoted in article).

I am not sure how much liberation this will give women. Are going to see more Rabri Devis, Mayawatis, and, Mamta Bannerjees? I fear so.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby asterix » Tue Mar 09, 2010 3:35 pm

Something is better than nothing. But some of the points raised by opposing smaller parties were valid, IMO. There are certail clauses in the bill which should've been amended (there were few amendments passed later and I'm not sure if they adressed the numerous issues related to the bill or not). Some of the points raised by these small parties were like, the clause of 5 year limits to each women candidate (means once they are selected in the Women's quota, they've only 5 years to use that quota and they'll not get the same quota for the 2nd term). The Bill doesn't gives any guarantee that economically, socially backward women of all sections of society can avail the quota. So women with money and power will mostly avail this quota. There are numerous other glitches in the bill which were overlooked in order to pass it through Upper House. But the real test lies ahaed when it has to pass through the Lower House.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby squarecut » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:56 pm

The headline is erroneous. The Indian parliament has not passed the bill. It is only the upper house of the parliament that has passed the bill. The real test lies in the lower house where the RJD and the JDU and SP and other such parties will flex their muscles and vocal chords against the bill.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:57 pm

What is your opinion about the bill? What do you ppl feel about affirmative action in general?

I am not a proponent of affirmative action on anything but economic status.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby stargirl » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:39 pm

bharathh wrote:Although I am happy to see women's welfare take center stage over that of caste and other regional based politics in India, I am torn on this topic. On one hand it looks like a good step to promoting the opportunities that women have in politics... but I agree whole heartedly with the opinion of Vinod Sharma (Quoted in article).

I am not sure how much liberation this will give women. Are going to see more Rabri Devis, Mayawatis, and, Mamta Bannerjees? I fear so.

I've been following the bill, reading back etc, and I wonder what the long term effects are going to be? I think there exists a great possibility that the "femocrat" quota will just be increased.

Quite honestly, I am predisposed to agree with those who say that a percentage of the ticket of each party should be reserved for women, and this should even be bigger than 33%, maybe, but I think doing it this way will only make male MPs more defensive, and the number is likely to stay at 33% and never exceed it.

However, those political hooligans who disrupted parliamentary proceedings on Monday make me angry and the way they have acted makes me glad it went through.

I was heartened somewhat by Brinda Karat's comments in the press, and the mention from some parties about how to make sure this bill positively affects scheduled caste women, Muslim women, working class women etc. Whether or not this is just rhetoric will remain to be seen obviously.

One thing, though, regardless of the intricacies, this represents a revolutionary step, actually reserving seats for women, and thus recognising the unequal opportunities women have had in public office and government positions.

There is one thing I would like to ask: how are ministry positions in India assigned? Simply because there is this trend in world parliaments, when women do get appointed to ministerial positions they are usually in less powerful fields, often fields dealing with the home and family etc. For instance, in SA there is a department called the Department of Women, Children and People With Disabilities. WTF? Like the challenges facing women and children are the same, let alone people with disabilities.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby asterix » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:46 pm

Wow! Stargirl, you follow Indian politics so closely? You even followed the proceeding in the Parliament? I'm having doubts now about you based in RSA or not.. :grin:

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Tue Mar 09, 2010 8:24 pm

More positive discrimination.

When will people learn its just discrimination.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Tue Mar 09, 2010 8:45 pm

stargirl wrote:There is one thing I would like to ask: how are ministry positions in India assigned? Simply because there is this trend in world parliaments, when women do get appointed to ministerial positions they are usually in less powerful fields, often fields dealing with the home and family etc. For instance, in SA there is a department called the Department of Women, Children and People With Disabilities. WTF? Like the challenges facing women and children are the same, let alone people with disabilities.


How do you know so much about Indian politics?! :o You certainly know a lot more than most ppl in India for sure!

The prime minister of India is by far the most powerful figure in the government. After being selected by the president, typically from the party that commands the plurality of seats in Parliament, the prime minister selects the Council of Ministers from other members of Parliament who are then appointed by the president. Individuals who are not members of Parliament may be appointed to the Council of Ministers if they become a member of Parliament either through election or appointment within six months of selection. The Council of Ministers is composed of cabinet ministers (numbering seventeen, representing thirty-one portfolios in 1995), ministers of state (forty-five, representing fifty-three portfolios in 1995), and deputy ministers (the number varies). Cabinet members are selected to accommodate different regional groups, castes, and factions within the ruling party or coalition as well as with an eye to their administrative skills and experience. Prime ministers frequently retain key ministerial portfolios for themselves.


http://www.indianchild.com/india_legisl ... rocess.htm

However given that no one party has been able to clinch a clear majority in a while, the cabinet posts are usually bartered for seats by lower but important members of the coalition.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby stargirl » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:07 pm

bharathh wrote:
How do you know so much about Indian politics?! :o You certainly know a lot more than most ppl in India for sure!


http://www.indianchild.com/india_legisl ... rocess.htm

However given that no one party has been able to clinch a clear majority in a while, the cabinet posts are usually bartered for seats by lower but important members of the coalition.


Thank you so much for that information, I wondered how much of a say this would mean for women representatives, if they would have to be positioned in certain parties in order to have any kind of decision making ability in this regard. But if there are no overwhelming dominant parties, then that will not be the case, so that answers my question.

I have always been interested in Indian politics, I think many of the challenges of representation in India have analogous challenges in SA, and the changes since Independence have been incredible. I have much to learn though, I mostly only follow news through academic books, newspapers and YouTube, lol. :)

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby stargirl » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:07 pm

VFE wrote:More positive discrimination.

When will people learn its just discrimination.

Do you believe that all discrimination is wrong? I mean this as a question, not an attack, this is what I read from your post (and from your posts in the MF Hussain thread) but you have never overtly stated this.

If this is what you are saying, I think the following: If the world were such that people had equitable opportunities, I would agree with you, but given historical patterns of systematic oppression against some, I believe that some measures of positive discrimination are good. For instance, I simply do not see how South Africa could have established a viable post-apartheid state without some positive discrimination for Black South Africans.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Tue Mar 09, 2010 9:11 pm

Well of course its hard.

But I believe in equality of opportunity. Its not the current generations fault what happened previously. Why should those individuals suffer?

I understand SA is more recent and certainly its not as disgusting as positive discrimination in America, but I still thinks its wrong.

Its not much but in my life I always hire the best person. Irrespective of background, 'race', sex, religion or age. Its just the right thing to do.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby cricketfrantic » Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:25 am

Well there is fair bit of women's representation in upper echleons of politics in India, President of India - Smt. Pratibha devi singh Patil, President of Indian National Congress and UPA ruling coilition - Smt Sonia Gandhi (she is supposed to be Most Powerful person in India), Sushma Swaraj - Senior BJP leader, Mamta banerjee - Railway Minister only minister which has its own budget, NIrupama Rao - Foreign Secretary.

Above are few examples of women in India occupying important positions which directly affect common people. Besides some of the women politicians are chief ministers and governors of states of India.

The Only thing I disagree and would agree with VFE is the same as the last line he posted in the above post.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby cricketfrantic » Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:33 am

However I also believe if reservation is required it should be given to economically backward class, which is not the case in the current scenario in India.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Wed Mar 10, 2010 7:25 am

VFE wrote:
Well of course its hard.

But I believe in equality of opportunity. Its not the current generations fault what happened previously. Why should those individuals suffer?

I understand SA is more recent and certainly its not as disgusting as positive discrimination in America, but I still thinks its wrong.

Its not much but in my life I always hire the best person. Irrespective of background, 'race', sex, religion or age. Its just the right thing to do.



So you are saying that a group of people who have suffered discrimination for a very long time should carry on getting discriminated because giving them an opportunity for equality is positive discrimination?

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Wed Mar 10, 2010 12:08 pm

I'm with Aidan on this as well. When does positive discrimination start becomming discrimination. I mean you're going to discriminate against a certain set of ppl because their forefathers did well earlier. How does lowering standards help any? It's not like the guys whose forefathers did well don't have to struggle as well to do well in life.

Hire the best person for a job etc. Have scholarships and other financial help for those that are needy... but don't lower standards just to attempt to balance social injustices. With positive discrimination, you're just keeping past wounds open.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VijayArumugam » Wed Mar 10, 2010 1:49 pm

Arun Shourie is one of the fierce critics of the reservation / affirmative action in India, for obvious ideological reasons. Karan Thapar did conduct an interesting discussion with him on his programme, "Devil's advocate", a few years ago.

http://ibnlive.in.com/news/quota-is-not ... ingle.html

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:49 pm

Reads more like a brawl than anything else. Don't think either person got their point through at all.

I personally do not believe in reservations for kids. I'm with Arun Shourie's argument. Help the people overcome their poverty by addressing issues they are facing. Don't just give reservations for the sake of it. At least, for god sake's change the way it is implemented right now. The only people I have seen benefiting from these reservations are the creamy layer. The whole system is corrupt to the core. A lot of people can fake SC/ST certificates as well. Most people who really need it are not getting any help from the way it is now.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby raja » Wed Mar 10, 2010 3:50 pm

I have been following this closely (one of the advantages of being in India).

Normally I am against positive affirmation that is not economic-status based.
If a member of a certain caste was deprived in the past due to his caste, by all means give him or his family some form of financial support (E.g. waiving of fees for his children) to redress the economic imbalance due to past caste-related discrimination. But don't lower standards in society for education, jobs etc.

On this particular matter, I am however somewhat indifferent.

And I think I really do not have any issue with positive discriminiation here - if it is used as a temporary measure in society to give women more of a chance to run affairs in their constituencies.

Besides, the women who now get elected (assuming this gets passed in the Lok Sabha) are probably not going to be worse than the guys currently in power.

If we have this reservation situation for 30 years (say), if some women , now being empowered, do good for womenfolk in general, that can only be good.
This is of course assuming that women will do good for women.

I don't see this as a long-term thing though. Longer term, both sexes should be treated the same.
For now, I would even be happy with a 50% reservation.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby stargirl » Wed Mar 10, 2010 5:13 pm

raja wrote:This is of course assuming that women will do good for women.


This is the problem. Can we assume this? I would fear that if the women who benefit from this bill are part of the elite classes, they are likely to think only of women in their own context, and thus those women who really are subjugated and oppressed in society won't benefit.

That is the problem with the blanket allocation of "women".

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Wed Mar 10, 2010 7:42 pm

I think women oppress other women more than men do. In many societies where women are believed to the repressed, the women are as bad, if not worse than men with their daughters/sisters etc.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Wed Mar 10, 2010 8:30 pm

Shalini wrote:
VFE wrote:
Well of course its hard.

But I believe in equality of opportunity. Its not the current generations fault what happened previously. Why should those individuals suffer?

I understand SA is more recent and certainly its not as disgusting as positive discrimination in America, but I still thinks its wrong.

Its not much but in my life I always hire the best person. Irrespective of background, 'race', sex, religion or age. Its just the right thing to do.



So you are saying that a group of people who have suffered discrimination for a very long time should carry on getting discriminated because giving them an opportunity for equality is positive discrimination?


Where do you get that from?

I am saying no one should suffer discrimination....a level playing field.

Positive discrimination is just discrimination.

And opportunity for equality is not what quotas are.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:15 pm

So how do they get this equal opportunity when due to the discrimination they have suffered for years they are not exactly equipped to be in a level playing field and without some help they never will be.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Wed Mar 10, 2010 10:47 pm

bharathh wrote:I think women oppress other women more than men do. In many societies where women are believed to the repressed, the women are as bad, if not worse than men with their daughters/sisters etc.


But women also understand problems of other women better, especially those women who have managed to come out of any form of oppression. There are many instances where women who have been given an opportunity to better themselves have given back a lot especially in Women only groups. I am saying this from experience of being involved in a community project years ago where some women got the opportunity and then went on to help others less fortunate than themselves when these new women joined the group.

And I also believe a lot of women oppress other women out of fear.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bolero » Thu Mar 11, 2010 6:41 am

Would not make much difference in the short run. Would make a difference a decade from now.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Thu Mar 11, 2010 8:37 am

bolero wrote:Would not make much difference in the short run. Would make a difference a decade from now.

That's true

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby stargirl » Thu Mar 11, 2010 11:10 am

Shalini wrote:
bharathh wrote:I think women oppress other women more than men do. In many societies where women are believed to the repressed, the women are as bad, if not worse than men with their daughters/sisters etc.


But women also understand problems of other women better, especially those women who have managed to come out of any form of oppression. There are many instances where women who have been given an opportunity to better themselves have given back a lot especially in Women only groups. I am saying this from experience of being involved in a community project years ago where some women got the opportunity and then went on to help others less fortunate than themselves when these new women joined the group.

And I also believe a lot of women oppress other women out of fear.

Yes, I agree with this, women especially believe they will not survive in a high powered environment unless they behave like men, and this sometimes includes oppression of women.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Thu Mar 11, 2010 2:56 pm

I dunno about that. Women are far harder on other women than are men (in general). A poor analogy perhaps, but women are far worse at ragging than are men on their juniors in college hostels. Some of the things I hear the girls make their juniors do are just beyond crazy!

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:25 pm

Shalini wrote:So how do they get this equal opportunity when due to the discrimination they have suffered for years they are not exactly equipped to be in a level playing field and without some help they never will be.


For me help is different to giving a job or role over better qualified candidates.

Help people to become better qualified and get roles on merit.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:30 pm

Yeah.

Being given a job despite having inferior qualifications is not the way to go. Help people get better qualifications by providing resources such as scholarships to children from disadvantaged communities.

That said why should disadvantaged communities mean "lower" castes? Are we not helping to keep alive the ills of caste discrimination with caste based reservations?

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Thu Mar 11, 2010 7:51 pm

I agree.

It should be purely about resources.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:14 pm

What qualifications do a lot of the male MPs in parliament have?

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:40 pm

Nothing other than having being chosen on a level playing field.

It doesnt matter if a person is male or female, gay or straight, black or white, christian or muslim only that everyone gets the same chance.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:52 pm

But that is the point you are missing. Its is not a level playing field for most women in India. Never has been.

A very small number of women from a privileged background have had the opportunities but it is a very small number.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Fri Mar 12, 2010 4:58 pm

So make the playing field level, dont discriminate for a very few. Its not like they would be the best women for the job.

A level playing field and pick the best is the only way to go. This is just sexism.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:04 pm

This is an attempt to make the playing field level. Some of the buffoons who get to stand for parliament have only one things going for them, that they are male. By giving women a chance to actually stand for parliament and state assemblies that can change. Unless they get a chance there is no way the change will come. Its not going to happen in a day but at least they have to be given the chance. And its going to be one hell of a battle even when they do get the chance.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:07 pm

lol

Its not a level playing field to insist on a quota.

A level playing field is saying anyone can stand.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby Shalini » Fri Mar 12, 2010 5:12 pm

But without forcing the issue and insisting that a set number of seats should be given to them not many women will be allowed to stand. That is the reality in India.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:31 pm

Then surely fix the problem, not cause another and more resentment?

I know thats black and white, but right and wrong tends to be.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby bharathh » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:36 pm

I am not sure if they will not be allowed to stand - perhaps they will not get the votes required to stand if they were to stand. So parties generally go for men over women. Winning without the backing of a political party machine is very difficult.

That said... this bill will mostly result in the current party members ruling by proxy by nominating their wives/daughters as a figurehead. Much like Laloo Prasad Yadav did in Bihar.

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Re: Landmark women's bill passes in the Indian parliament

Postby VFE » Fri Mar 12, 2010 6:44 pm

Doesnt sound like its fixing the problem to me.

The attitudes need to change.