International Women’s Day: What is the way forward?

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The easy answer to this question one might think is, ‘have more women in politics’.

Indeed, some women’s organizations have been doing very good work promoting this idea and helping women to get involved in politics. Dr. Sithanen’s erudite treatise in this respect is highly inspiring, too.

While the presence of women in politics and at the decision-making table is essential in any true democracy and while it is reasonable to believe that women are in a better position to press for the needs of other women as they can feel where the  hurt is, my sympathy is limited. In spite of the validity of the arguments put forward, I have the following reservations:

First, the system of quotas of any type is of doubtful validity and flies in the face of meritocracy. It is also patronizing and degrading.

Secondly, I am not sure whether having more women at the Legislative Assembly will necessarily improve the lot of the ordinary woman. The cases of women who broke through the glass ceiling, went up and pulled the ladder up behind them are telling.  Margaret Thatcher is a case in point. Her stance when it comes to women can be summarized by Patricia Hewitt, a Labour minister, in the following statement to the BBC, "Margaret Thatcher damaged women''s place in the workplace, undermined families and communities, and did nothing for women in public life. It was a wasted opportunity on a gargantuan scale." Mrs. Indira Mayer holds a similar record and so does Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

 Have our ladies in parliament been promoting the cause of other women? On the occasion of Women’s Day, and responding to an interview question on the cases of rape, conjugal violence and other types of violence women are victims of, Mrs. SEEBUN replies, ‘les femmes doivent savoir se faire respecter.’ What disrespect can these victims be accused of? The latest case of rape which made the headlines was the Sodnac case where a girl, in the prime of her youth, was raped in broad daylight while going to her lectures?!

Should we, then, argue for a system of quotas? Will more women in the Legislative Assembly help other women or should we concentrate our efforts on helping the hordes of voiceless women climb out of poverty, stigma, helplessness and prejudice?

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