Thursday, March 11, 2010

Once again on Women's Reservation Bill

This is a post from an ongoing discussion on the Bill in buzz.

There is a quantitative aspect to justice. In that respect, any space whatsoever in this word in which women are not 50%, is exclusionary and biased. If Brinda Karat demands 50% of Green Hunt personnel must be women, I don't think we can counter it by noting that the quarter million of Green Hunt forces with advanced technology and virtual licence to kill, rob, rape, torture and impunity and also the Left's support, set out on taking lands away from and ousting tribal people. Not just because her party is instrumental in making such massive - the biggest in the world and the only in any democracy, but because quantitative aspect of justice is different from and could not be confused with, the qualitative aspect of it.
This Bill doesn't do a bit to advance gender justice (in qualitative sense) nor does it in anyway harm the interests of OBCs in the long-run. OBCs will be forced to redefine themselves as including both men and women. Dalits will neither gain nor lose anything from it, except that we will have some Dalit women brokers instead of just male ones.  
Unless some politicians are there without the burden of appealing to men's votes, they cannot represent some of the most important demands of gender justice that go against the 'interests' of men. Such unburdening is possible only when there is a scope for some politicians who can get elected only with women votes.
Women are luckily the biggest oppressed group of all. But this advantage is cancelled by the unfortunate fact that women are not allowed to see themselves as primarily as ‘women’ when it comes to electoral considerations. Their prioritised allegiance is still family, caste, class, region etc.
To change this situation, much better way is to have constituencies not just on the basis of geography but on gender. There should be some 66% seats in legislatures elected only by women. Such situation is better for forging 'women identity.' Such a thing exists at a vague moralistic level already and in much diffuse form of an inactive awareness among women as being potential victims of male violence. But it is only after many leaps ahead that it could become effective common identity.
This argument for 'pure' constituencies is not a call for fragmentation of the polity. If the polity as whole is mature enough, it is good to compel  each group to get approval or at least no-objection from other groups through forcing them to get votes from other groups too.
Unfortunately the polity is not that mature because the society is full of antagonistic contradictions. You can't have minimal human rights for women and prevention of their blatant, widespread and routine violation without hurting men and patriarchal values of both men and women. Therefore, we need representatives of women who are spared of the burden to be unobjectionable to men voters. This is possible only if constituencies are reserved for women voters and not just for women politicians.
This is precisely the reason I consider Brinda Karat and her party's position and their joining the BJP and Congress is CRIMINAL. They should have known all this. This is the basic lesson of the disaster called reserved constituencies for Dalits.
I am surprised at the utter failure of nearly everybody to draw the obvious lesson from the ineffectiveness of a huge guaranteed number of Dalit MPs and MLAs. This is actually much secure guarantee for a certain number of Dalits to be in the legislature all the time than any political mobilisation would have given. Yet, there is virtually nothing these Dalit representatives could do. Whatever is done to, or achieved by, Dalits is what is allowed by the Uppercaste parties and governments and through struggles NOT led or supported by these Dalit elected representatives. It is plain cynicism to think that all Dalit politicians hitherto have been just corrupt or inept. Their election, just like the one this Women's bill now going to repeat, was fundamentally faulty. Constituencies are reserved for Dalit leaders and not to Dalit voters.
The point is, if you are to represent a group protecting and promoting whose interests involves going against the interests of another group with more electorally organised numbers, you need to get elected, you are doomed to be ineffective. Because that majority or well-organised group will not let you elected in the first place, even if all your group is firmly behind you.
In terms of superficial but illusory numerical terms, women representatives could escape this plight. Women are bound to be roughly half anywhere any time. If sex ratio is slightly biased against women, women live longer to balance it numerically (Chunk of North India is the only place on the face of earth where women longevity is less than men, but that too can't be a big problem if women are organised electorally). In an election with multiple contestants you don't even have to mobilise more than 20% to win seats. But, alas such is not possible.

What these women representatives conjured up through this Bill could  achieve is the NGO agenda of economic empowerment of women with the argument that it alone would liberate women. It alone is the way to do something for women, without displeasing men. Is that right? This is just plain misleading. If somebody argues that if workers work more and give more profits to the capitalist and capitalists compensate them for it, what will you say? It is structurally not possible, while in the short-run and at sparse cases works. But this kind of thinking is based on plain ignorance of how economy works. The agenda of economic strengthening of women is nothing but an exact equivalent of workers-working-more philosophy. Many rapes are prevented each day by not letting women go out but it is not gender justice.
The profound conformism in this kind of thinking is what is otherwise known as reformism in Marxist lingo. This is an attractive proposition for the smug; the idea of helping the victim without hurting the perpetrator. And, doing it top-down. 

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