Women are the real political minority in India. Most Indian political parties are using state-level elections, like the one due shortly in Karnataka, as a rehearsal for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Every important political issue from development and infrastructure to economy is being discussed at lengths via party manifestos. However, all these proclamations often reduce empowerment and safety of women to mere two lines. This proves that no caste or religion is as ignored as women.

Despite increasing cases of sexual assault, horrific rape cases and violence, most political outfits merely include women’s issues as a token in their agenda.

These leaders, who are as much responsible for our welfare, as for that of the other half of the population are too busy securing their vote banks the on basis of caste and religion-based politics.

How can our pitiful condition not manage to move even a single party in our country? Is women’s welfare only a matter to be raised on occasions like Women’s Day? Or when some poor girl dies a gruesome death after being raped? Shouldn’t our safety and empowerment be a matter of concern even when there isn’t a high-profile rape or murder case in the news? Perhaps this apathy arises from the fact that women’s welfare is not an issue important enough in India to swing the elections.

According to a report by the Election Commission of India, female voter turn-out for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was 65.63 % (percentage of total women electors).

There was a rise of nearly ten percent from the 2009 elections. Also, the gender gap between the percentages of male and female voters was lowest ever. (1.46%)

Despite improving numbers, we can say that women are not utilising their right to vote to the fullest. We have to understand that our politicians only bow down to the power of vote banks. Their political agendas are not driven by what is good for the country, but what will motivate Indians to vote for them. It is not possible to correct the 71 years long degradation of Indian politics instantly. But we can surely give them a taste of what we are capable of.

Women’s issues are seldom a talking point when it comes to elections in our country. Even for the 65 percent women who voted in 2014, the agenda was about everything but women’s welfare. We never demanded safety, equality and diversity at workplace from our politicians. We never voted for a party on basis of their women’s welfare policies. Hence, it’s not fair to blame our politicians for not prioritising us in their manifestos, because we ourselves have not paid any heed to what we need from the government.

The only way to change this callous political attitude is to speak up and exercise our right to vote.

We have to make political parties realise that women’s issues are vital to both men and women in this country. We should let them know that it affects our political stance. Until then they will not pay attention. Another important factor is the deliverance of the promises made during campaigns. Making women’s issues a headline in political manifestos will not yield anything, unless the party which comes into power actually follows up on it. All it would take is one election result driven by women’s issues to open their eyes. Once they understand that Indians are not willing to ignore women’s welfare anymore, the political parties will follow the suit.

Also Read : Intimidating women and threatening them is not politics

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.

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