With India ready for the Lok Sabha Elections in May this year, great emphasis is being placed on what the outcome of the elections would be, especially for women. It has been noted that during both reigns, women faced many issues and continue to face the same today. As such, women’s charter for the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections has been introduced to shed some light on what women across the nation want.
The charter starts with some of the main issues faced by women living in India today. These include violence against women, structural violence and rape of Dalit women, honor killings, patriarchal backlash for asking for their rights, domestic violence, dowry harassment, female infanticide, property rights, food inflation, agrarian distress and anti-secularism actions against minorities.
The Charter then moves on to describe what women of the country want in the following sectors.
Universalize PDS to exclude taxpayers. Provide ration cards to all, including single women, migrants, street dwellers etc. making sure they get sugar, pulses, milk, edible oil, tea and salt at these shops. Punish hoarders and black marketers strictly under the Essential Commodities Act in addition to banning them forever.
Remove restrictions on LPG cylinders and provide minimum 5 liters of kerosene for every individual. Universalize ICDS and provide hot cooked meals in MDMS and ICDS. Stop the auction and export of food stocks, providing them to the state instead. Control prices of drugs throughout the nation.
Enact the Women’s Reservation Bill, reserve 1/3 seats in State Assemblies as well as the Parliament for women. Provide 50% reservation for women in decision-making bodies. Enhance reservations for women up to ½ of the total number of seats in Municipalities and Panchayats.
Ensure payment of minimum wages and remove 100 workdays restriction in the MNREGS. Provide crèches at worksites. Enact the Urban Employment Guarantee Act and regularize scheme workers with social security benefits and minimum wages (Rs. 10000 per month).
Ensure the implementation of a protective legislation to provide minimum wages to agricultural workers as well as maternity, social security and pension benefits. Implement childcare schemes and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act. Recognize Women’s Self Help Groups as a part of the priority sector by providing them loans at 4%.
Provide pension of Rs. 2000 per month for women aged 55 years and above, as well as disabled women and widows. Increase public spending on Health to about 5% and Education to 6% of the GDP. Promote publicly funded health and education systems in addition to regulating private systems. Provide free public health care for all and control prices of drugs, providing them free in public facilities.
Provide compulsory education to children in the age group 0-18 yrs irrespective of gender. Increase the funds allotted to mid-day meals and other nutritional schemes. Remove two-child norm and give priority to single women, disabled women, widows and minority women headed households.
Provide special packages for household members affected by suicides in the family. Provide reservations for Muslims in institutions and jobs.
Land, Water and Natural Resources
Distributed ceiling land to landless households and ensuring joint pattas for women. Give priority for single women in ensuring land and house sites for the homeless. Take strict action against land encroachers. Prevent privatization for water resources as well as drinking water schemes, making sure water is available for drinking and agricultural purposes.
Violence against Women
Consider marital rape an offence and enact all recommendations placed by the Justice Verma Committee Report. Fast track all violence cases within a stipulated time. Implement the PcPNDT Act to prevent unsafe, forced abortions. Implement a standalone law to deal with honor killings. Prevent trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation.
Provide equal rights in marital as well as inherited property for women. Make marriage registration compulsory. Take strict action against those indulged in irrational practices pertaining to superstitions.
The results of the upcoming elections would spell the fate of the women living in India for the next 5 years at least. As such, women around the nation are coming forward to voice their concerns as well as expectations. The points mentioned above constitute only a small portion of the charter that was drafted to empower the Indian women. Only time would tell if these pointers are taken seriously enough to force implementation.