Sunday, March 10, 2019

Kerala women politicians bemoan the lack of opportunities

By Shevlin Sebastian

Pics: Veena George; Savithri Lakshmanan, the last woman Congress MP. Her term ended in 1991

On March 9, when Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, secretary of the CPM announced the list of candidates for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, there was a collective groan from the women politicians of the state. Once again, the woman representation in the LDF is dismal. They have got only two out of 20 seats: Sreemathi Teacher and Veena George.

“We are not surprised,” says a woman politician, on condition of anonymity. “This is a patriarchal society.”

Now the top leaders of the Congress Party have had parleys over different names. One woman Congress politician says, “I have presented my case.” So, does she stand a chance? “Not sure,” she says. “Our party has not had a woman MP for the last 25 years, since Savithri Lakshmanan. Hope we will get a chance to break the trend.”

Another Congress politician says, “Even if we get seats, we are usually allotted the losing ones. In 2014, we got Alathur and Attingal. There are rumours this will be the case this year.”   

The names will be sent to the High Command and the final decision will be made in Delhi. The announcement will be made on Monday. The BJP is also expected to announce their list soon.

In 70 years of electoral politics, Kerala has had only eight women MPs: Annie Mascarene, Susheela Gopalan, Bhargavi Thankappan, Savithri Lakshmanan, AK Premajam, P Sathidevi, CS Sujatha and Sreemathi Teacher. “This is sad especially because the women voters outnumber the men,” says politician Beena Menon (name changed). “And how are we inferior to men? We work as hard and are as dedicated.”

On March 8, when Beena was travelling in a car from Kollam to Thiruvananthapuram she was flipping through the Woman’s Day supplements of various newspapers, extolling the achievements of women and felt nice. But soon, she reflected on her own career in a political party and began to feel depressed.

“When a woman joins politics at the grassroots level, she is not given any respect by their male colleagues,” she says. “The men think that if she is coming to politics, she is not morally upright. As a result, there have been moments where women have been in uncomfortable situations. But they keep quiet about it. That’s because, in a male-dominated society, it is difficult to get justice.”

And even if she works as hard as her male counterpart it is the latter who gets most of the posts. “Till now, no woman has become the president of the party,” says Beena. “At the most, they become the president of a district committee. But the numbers are very low. Out of 100 district committees, say, there will be only or two women leaders.”

Beena says that this should change. “We desperately need a change in the mindset of society,” she says. 

(The New Indian Express, Kerala editions)

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