BY DHANANJAY MAHAPATRA IN TIMES OF INDIA
The women’s reservation bill intends to reserve 33% of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women. One expected the House of Elders or Rajya Sabha to take a sympathetic view of the proposal for two reasons. First, it did not affect the dynamics of elections to Rajya Sabha. Second, the members being elders, having seen life and society and the unfair manner in which both treat women, were expected to act wisely.
The pandemonium that preceded the debate and passage of the bill surely left a bad taste in the mouth of many. Unbelievably, a seasoned parliamentarian thanked the marshals for the valuable service they rendered in making the debate and passage of the bill in RS a reality. If the bill generated so much heat in the Upper House, it is likely that the unruliness could go up many notches in Lok Sabha, which has many younger MPs who have proudly imbibed the social values and beliefs of those elders who stoutly opposed the bill.
Far away from Delhi, a similar scene is being enacted in Jammu and Kashmir assembly. A private proposal — J&K Permanent Resident (Disqualification) Bill 2010 — seeks to disqualify a J&K girl of her permanent resident status if she gets married to a non-resident. Similarly, girls from outside the state marrying a J&K permanent resident run the risk of being stripped of permanent resident status if their husbands divorce them. And it does not matter even if the marriage has lasted decades.
To sum up the bill, girls from J&K better not marry anyone from outside and those from outside marrying men from the state will do well to keep the marriage. Otherwise, both would be disinherited from landed property.
Whether the bills, the one in Parliament and the other in J&K, get through or not, it actually reveals the ingrained values of politicians.
In a democratic set-up, ideas are succeeded by debates even as they take years to take root. Every idea, which in itself is an experiment, takes decades before being translated into action. We all know experimentation is key to the vibrancy of a democracy. And every idea which has taken root in social thinking should be put up for experimentation on the altar of democracy — the floor of the House — to expose the true colours of parliamentarians and legislators. There is an interesting passage from a Supreme Court judgment that reflected the understanding of traditional views about marriage and role of men and women in society and relationships and the present dynamics. It may not add to the women’s reservation bill or stand against the J&K bill but it would surely educate those who stand to vote for or against the proposed legislations.
In State of Delhi vs Laxman Kumar [1985 SCC (4) 476], the SC had said, “Of late there is a keen competition between men and women all over the world. There has been a feeling that the world has been a male dominated one and women as a class have been trying to raise their heads by claiming equality. We are of the view that women must rise and on account of certain virtues which nature has endowed them with exclusively, due credit must be given to women as possessor of those exclusive qualities.”
It added, “It is the woman who is capable of playing the more effective role in the preservation of society and, therefore, she has to be respected. She has a greater dose of divinity in her and by her gifted qualities she can protect the society against evil. To that extent, women have special qualities to serve society in due discharge of the social responsibility.”
The apex court went on to say that society needed both men and women in equal measure and status as one without the other could never form a place called civilised society. “Therefore, in a world where men and women are indispensable to each other and the status of one depends upon the existence and longing of the other, to what extent is competition between the two justifiable is a matter to be debated in a cool and healthy setting,” it said. Did you say Parliament is not a “cool and healthy” setting for such a debate?