March to Parliament against Betrayal on Women’s Bill
The All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA) held a March to Parliament on August 3 to demand that the 33% Women’s Reservation Bill be passed. Thousands of women from all over the country marched from Ramlila Maidan with colourful banners and placards, and raising slogans asking, “President Patil’s speech promised Women’s Bill in 100 days – Why the broken promise?” The March reached Parliament Street where a mass meeting was held. The March also protested against the pitifully inadequate allocation for women in the Budget, and against steep price rise, and against repression and rape in Shopian, Lalgarh, Bastar, Punjab and other places. Women from Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam (Karbi Anglong), Delhi and other states participated in the March.
Addressing the mass meeting at Jantar Mantar, AIPWA National President Srilata Swaminathan said that the Government has shamefully delayed the Women’s Reservation Bill yet again. UPA Govt.’s first Budget in its new tenure had betrayed women. Women’s health and education have been neglected completely, while measures to roll back price hikes and ensure food security have been woefully inadequate. Drinking water is scarce in villages but liquor is being encouraged by government policies. She also said that the principle of equal pay for equal work for women was being violated even in NREGA work.
Addressing the mass gathering AIPWA General Secretary Meena Tiwari said this Government, in spite enjoying a full majority in the House, is dilly-dallying when it comes to passing the Women’s Bill, backtracking from the promise spelt out in the President’s address that the Bill would be passed in the first 100 days. Very few days remain for the first 100 days of the Government’s tenure to be up, yet there is no sign of any plans to Table the Bill in the Lok Sabha or pass it. She said the Congress is playing a double game – wanting to woo women by espousing the Bill, while using the opposition by JD(U), SP, RJD etc as a pretext to delay the Bill. In the last 13 years, she said, innumerable Bills have been passed in spite of massive opposition – yet in the case of the Women’s Bill, the plea of ‘consensus’ is being invoked.
AIPWA National Secretary Kavita Krishnan demanded that men in uniform who are guilty of state repression and rapes of women – in Kashmir, Lalgarh, Bastar – must be punished. She demanded a law to punish Khaap Panchayats, other institutions as well as families who attempt to curb the right of women to choose partners of their own choice, and to guarantee the safety of couples who defied caste and community boundaries. AIPWA National Vice President Saroj Chaube demanded homestead plots for women and job guarantee for urban women.
Addressing the mass meeting, Comrade Jasbir Kaur Nat, who had recently been released after over two months in jail in Punjab, spoke of the struggle of women in Punjab for homestead plots, defying repression and illegal arrest.
During the mass meeting, women also raised spirited slogans against the BJP’s agenda of attacking women’s freedom in the name of protecting ‘Indian culture.’
The mass meeting was also addressed by AIPWA leaders from Punjab, Jasbir Kaur Nat and Iqbal Kaur Udasi, Surajrekha from MP, Premlata Pande, UP State Secretary, Bhanwari Bai from Rajasthan, Shashi Yadav, National Secretary and Sangita Singh, National Council member from Bihar, Anjali Upadhyay, National Secretary from Karbi Anglong, and others. After the demonstration, a memorandum was submitted to the PMO’s office.