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The Arithmetics of Gender


In which century are things going to change? In the realm of politics, it is no secret that the male-dominated political parties employ brazen tactics to marginalize women. The political history, of this so -called progressive state-Kerala, is also the subverted history of gender marginalization. Over the years, the female electorate has increased considerably in Kerala and today the women account for 1,10,26,801 of the total electorate of 2,13,19,036, a whopping seven lakhs more than the men. But since independence there hasn’t been adequate female representation in the state’s political structure. And election 2006 is not going to better the situation. Stagnancy in the gender figures will continue to rule. The number of female candidates who have filed their nomination papers is a mere 71 as against the masculine figure of 859. All competing for 140 Assembly seats. God bless them.

Playing gender politics, the main parties have cleverly ensured that some of their women candidates who are making electoral debuts are pitted against the heavy weights. And parties like Indian Union Muslim League have not even bothered to field a single woman candidate. Why pretend?!! How many women will win the intra party and inter party games and make it to the Assembly is another story.

Interestingly, the manifestos of both the UDF and the LDF have sections of rosy promises exclusively designed to woo the women voters. But there has been no move to increase the feminine number within the parties, thereby excluding them from decision making and framing of laws. Perhaps as a direct fallout of the insensitive male-centric laws is the prevalent malady of sexual exploitation that afflicts the state.

And the parties are ready with their excuses. Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President Ramesh Chennithala had one too many, “The sitting MLA’s are powerful and we had to give them tickets and also make seat adjustments with our partners. The problem is that there has been a dearth of good women candidates. I am sure that this will change gradually.” Writer Sara Joseph pooh-poohed such excuses, “We see very strong women take their own decisions at the panchayat –level. So why aren’t there enough women in the state and national level? Some women in the forefront are mere puppets. Men cannot think like women and so how can we expect them to understand us or frame laws that are gender- sensitive?’’

While the CPM State Secretary was in mood to engage in such silly discussions. He had other problems to discuss- like who will become Chief Minister? (Bah! Women and their vital statistics! Guess men think that only! Perhaps only that!) Give them thirty three percent reservation stuff and they run like hell. One hell of ice breaker I guess?!!! SFI state president Sindhu Joy of course was all promises. She promised that she would solve all the women’s problems through strikes! “Doesn’t that only add to the ordinary woman’s problems?”

“No!” She replied. Still reveling in the idea of strikes and abandoned ideologies, she promised strikes if she came to power. “Women in Kerala are not safe anywhere- while traveling, working and even on campus. Only strikes can solve women's problems.”

The Political Female is a rare species in many parts of Kerala. If this state has to be truly progressive then the political structure has to be changed. And women don’t need the 33 percent to survive in this field. They just have to find other ways to survive.

(Author: Minu Ityipe. First published in the New Indian Express. Some changes have been made.)

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