By Ila Ananya
Andhra Pradesh started what they’re calling the first National Women’s Parliament in Amaravati yesterday. Talking at the NWP, Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu announced that the BJP-led government at the centre would pass the Women’s Reservation Bill once the party had the majority in the Rajya Sabha.
If, like us, you were wondering just what the National Women’s Parliament was, it’s being organised by the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, with the broad theme of ‘Empowering Women — Strengthening Democracy’. According to its website, its objectives are to, make “young girls realise their potential and make them aware of the canvas where they can leave their footprints”, and “strengthen the participation of women in decision making processes across all segments and levels of society”, among other things.
But Naidu’s comments about the Women’s Reservation Bill come at a time when Nagaland has decided to seek a Constitutional Amendment, rather than let women become politicians. It also comes after the Andhra Pradesh government, which made elaborate plans for the NWP, decided not to talk about the 33 percent reservation for women in legislative bodies in its final Amaravati declaration that they decided to adopt. Telugu 360 reported that Sivaprasad Rao said that the 33 percent reservation for women hadn’t been included in the declaration because, as he conveniently said, “We will discuss, but we want to stay clear of any controversial issues.” It basically seems like a classic case of token talk and no actual action because they just can’t sit and discuss “controversial issues”; that’ll just be too much for them.
Anyway, after all this, it seemed like Naidu couldn’t stop talking about all the important things women were doing. Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that he didn’t talk about women in any real terms. Instead, he said that gender equality was part of Indian tradition. He’s reported to have said, “We had women at the top, in ancient times and myths too. The defence ministry was monitored by Durga, Saraswati was the education minister, and the key ministry of finance was handled by Lakshmi.” Apart from successfully not recognising even a bit of work women have been doing in the country since forever, we’re also wondering about the blissful gender equal world he’s talking about in all his invocation of religious myths, because we don’t really see it.
Naidu then ended with the all too familiar, “The rivers are named after women; the country is called Bharat Mata, and not pita… we have a tradition of equality.” We don’t even want to get into this again. Maybe he should just keep all this gyaan to himself and let women tell him about the work they’re doing and the difficulties they face in India.