#ELLEct: What every Indian woman should know before voting
From menstrual health to jobs
Polling in the world’s largest democracy is now underway; India is home to approximately 1.3 billion people, and the Election Commission of India estimates that 875 million are eligible to vote. But that’s not the only number that matters this year. According to The Verdict, a new book by veteran journalist Prannoy Roy and election researcher Dorab Sopariwala, the voter turnout among women may surpass that of men in this historic election. And since every vote counts (this year more than ever before), India’s prominent political parties are hoping to swing the votes of this demographic their way as well. From menstrual health issues to women’s participation in the workforce, here’s what the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress 2019 manifestos promise Indian women:
Women’s Reservation Bill
Both The BJP and the Congress have publicly backed the Women’s Reservation Bill, which introduces 33% reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies. This Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha more than 22 years ago but has still not been passed.
Moreover, the Congress has promised to amend the Service Rules to reserve for women 33% appointments to posts in the Central Government.
Women around the world have been lobbying for equal pay for equal work. The Congress’ manifesto mentions that the Equal Remuneration Act, 1976 will be enforced. The BJP aims to put together a comprehensive roadmap to “dramatically increase” participation of women in the workforce over the next five years—the manifesto does not specify how. It does say: To generate better work opportunities for women, 10% material to be sourced for government procurement will be done from MSMEs having at least 50% women employees in their workforce.
To ensure women join and continue to be a part of the workforce, both parties have promised creches and childcare facilities in every Anganwadi. The BJP says it will ensure the number of childcare facilities are increased three-fold by 2022. Meanwhile, the Congress says it will repeal any provision of law that prohibits night shifts for women. It also promises to set up working women’s hostels and transport facilities in every Special Economic Zone.
The Congress promises to review the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplaces Act, 2013, and to extend the Act to all workplaces. The party promises to pass a model legislation to establish a separate investigative agency to investigate “heinous crimes against women and children”. The Congress also said it would appoint an ‘Adhikar Maitri’ in every panchayat to educate women about their legal rights.
The BJP, on the other hand, said women’s security will be given more priority, without going into details. The party, however, proposes gender sensitisation courses be made mandatory in the curriculum of all educational institutions and training modules of public offices.
Apart from providing an adequate number of safe and hygienic public toilets in towns and cities, the Congress assures migrant women workers of sufficient night shelters. It also said that sanitary napkin vending machines will be installed in public spaces, schools and colleges.
The BJP promises all reproductive and menstrual health services will be easily available to all women across India. The party also said that it would provide sanitary pads to women at INR 1 with the extension of its Suvidha scheme.
Widows and destitute
The Congress said it will work with state governments to develop a programme to provide single, widowed, divorced, abandoned or destitute women a dignified and secure life—remaining vague about the details. The BJP’s manifesto focusses on widows of defence personnel killed in action. It said it will formulate a programme that works towards creations of jobs and provides them with skill training.
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