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Women Empowerment not more than a Slogan!
By Raman Sharma
Women Empowerment in Jammu and Kashmir possibly would remain a slogan for at least one more century because there appears no immediate ray of hope as all the political parties believe in lip service rather than doing anything to give them an opportunity. This is unfortunate that even after more than 60 years of democracy only 3 women leaders could become even Members of Parliament.

In the recent history of the state only 3 women from Jammu and Kashmir could enter Parliament of India. Krishna Mehta, Begum Akbar Jahan Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti are the only names that come across the mind when one explores political empowerment for women in the state. This is obviously a matter of great concern that when there are more than 5,883,365 female citizens out of total 12,548,926 population and more than 31 Lakh voters out of total 64 Lakhs combined electorate. Still their presence in the power corridors of Jammu and Kashmir remains almost negligible.

The discrimination is done by each and every political party of the state with women. All of them are reluctant in giving them political opportunity to show their ability and competence. A glance at the list of 89 honourable members of legislative assembly reveals that there are only five female legislators in the lower house whereas officially there are over 3 millions female voters in the state. At present out of 30 members in the state’s upper house (Legislative Council) the female representation remains zero. The council of ministers in the state is also purely male dominated and there’s just one female minister namely Miss Sakina Itoo. Out of a total of 10 Member Parliaments there is no presence of any women candidates neither in the Lok Sabha where all the six seats are occupied by male members nor the 4 Rajya Sabha seats which are shared by men too.

In this troubled state the female folk is hardly accommodated even at the soft higher political posts such as vice-chairperson of community welfare boards like Kissan Welfare Board, Pahari Speaking Board, Vice Chairman, J&K State Advisory Board for Development of Gujjars and Bakerwals and others. These posts could be easily offered to the female political activists to show their ability and if they do well then they might be offered some other chance.

Even at the Panchayat level, the scenario is no different. The approach of all the political parties is more or less same, except National Conference and Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party. No other political party even gave mandate to any other female contestant for 4 MLC’s seat. Amongst total 44 nominations filed for the MLC’s seat there are only 2 female candidates. The powerful Panchayati Raj Institutions in the state could be the best option for women empowerment and to provide them the opportunities to serve the communities and build up leadership character. But contrary to this, the state government has not even given any honorarium to elected panchayat members. In the 2011, Panchayat elections a good number of female candidates successfully contested the elections. Now these elected Panches and Sarpanches are feeling deceived because many of them were earlier earning their livelihood by one way or other like tailoring and handicrafts but after being elected as Panchayat members they could not devote time there.

The political empowerment of women in the state is necessary not only to accommodate them or for their social and political empowerment but this is the need of the hour. The sex ratio in Jammu and Kashmir leaves a lot to be desired as it lags behind the national average by a huge gap. The female sex ratio of Jammu and Kashmir is 883 females per 1000 males and the child sex ratio is also alarming at 859 females per 1000 males. Even the female literacy rate is 58.01 % which is 7 % less than that of national rate i.e. 65.46%. In our neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh, Punjab we can have female literacy rate of 76.60 percent and 71.34 respectively.

The political bosses in the state must understand the fact that the women of Jammu and Kashmir are very competent. Every individual woman here is capable of making change and they work in every sector and level of society. The women are tolerant, courageous, talented and obviously beautiful and this is the reason that they are living in this troubled state with dignity and decorum despite the fact that in these past 25 years long violence the state has witnessed 68000 violence incidents. Women suffered the most in these violence - they lost their spouses, sons, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and other dear ones but their will and strength remained intact. But unfortunately they were never rewarded for their courage, at present there are total 86 women members in the Parliament, 60 in the Lok Sabha and 26 in Rajya Sabha but not even a single from Jammu and Kashmir. Why?

There is an urgent need to bridge the gender gap in the state because no society and civilization can move forward without the participation of half its population, as was said by Swami Vivekanand, “There is no chance of the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved.” Let’s hope the state would also see a new era where women play more significant role and the state rise to new heights where there are no gender biased and male dominance. It is also desired that in the next Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and assembly elections the women of the state are given their due share. The activism of student at the college and university level is the only hope to further raise this debate of women empowerment and removing discrimination. The discrimination and prejudice with the women is not only committed by the political class; even the state (government) directly or indirectly reminds the female population that they are dissimilar and treated other wisely. It is mandatory for only female college students in our state to wear uniforms but no one has the justification or valid reason that why men/boys are exempted from such restrictions.

(The author is an RTI Activist and can be reached [a] Mobile: 9796811012)
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News Updated at : Thursday, November 29, 2012
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