As Karnataka goes to election, a look at the heaps of colourful party manifestos reveal that the primary women’s issues lie unattended. Women form around 49% of the voting population of the state. So to say that their votes will affect the election’s outcome is an understatement. But despite forming nearly half of the vote casting chunk, politicians do not seem to be making an earnest attempt to understand what women in Karnataka want.

The leading contenders for power in the state are going all out to appease women. However, what they are offering are freebies and tons of shiny promises which would do little for women’s welfare.

Free education to girls at post-graduation level, free sanitary pads, employing 1,000 police women to probe gender crimes, awarding pregnant women Rs 6,000 for three months before delivery and three months post-delivery and loans up to Rs 2 Lakhs for women only SHGs at 1% p.a. are some of the promises these parties are making. One of the parties is also promising free smartphones for women of Karnataka.

Crime Against Women

None of these parties wants to address the elephant in the room. The biggest concern of women in Karnataka right now is their safety. According to the NCRB’s Crime in India 2016 report, Karnataka accounted for some 4.2 percent of crimes committed against women in India. The number of reported incidences rose from 12775 to 14131 in just a year. Also there were some 1671 incidences of rape of women and girls in 2016. While these numbers may not be as high as states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, it is the rise in numbers from last year that is more concerning.

More disturbing data however comes from the capital city of Bangalore, which has seen an alarming surge in sexual crimes against women. The incidences of crime against women has increased from 3109 in 2015 to 3412 in 2016. Just last year it witnessed an incident of mass molestation of women on the New Year’s eve.

Low literacy rate

Another issue that isn’t featuring prominently in most manifestos is low literacy rate of 68.08 % among women, as per the 2011 census. It seems a much smaller number when compared to the male literacy rate of 82.47 %. Add to that the child sex ratio of 948 girls per 1000 boys, and the picture of a society inclined towards patriarchal practices comes to light.

Oversight of the real issues

What the women of Karnataka need the most is not free smartphones or sanitary pads. They need safety and empowerment. They need a society motivated to be more inclusive. Most political parties have no strategies planned to curb the wave of sexual crimes in the state. They also seem to think that the best way to empower women is to give them smart phones or offer free education. Clearly there is an oversight of the fact it is the parents and family members who need to be sensitized and motivated to let their girls use phones or go to schools.

Only 8% percent of all contestants in the assembly elections are women

How can we expect these political parties to empower women of the state? When they fail to practice virtues like gender diversity and equality in their own election strategies? It is sad that women will have to cast their votes knowing that none of the parties contesting understand what they actually need.

We can only hope that the elected party will deal with actual problems like sexual harassment, increased violence against women, and gender bias. And not just cover them up with glamorous political schemes and freebies.

Pic credit: bgr.in

Also Read : Women Are Really A Political Minority In Our Country

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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