It is election season. Several state elections are around the corner and next year is the General Election. This is the moment when politicians suddenly remember their women constituents. Yes, we may not be 50 percent of the population due to the atrocious birth sex selection ratios, but we definitely are not a minority community. We are marginalised, but not a minority.

Women as a constituent group are large enough in numbers to make a difference and it is critical we do make our voices heard through our votes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Women may not be 50 percent of the population, but we definitely are not a minority community.
  • As per the 2016 data from the National Crime Records Bureau every 15 minutes, a woman is raped in India.
  • Voting is an opportunity to demand for better safety and security, a faster judicial process, gender-neutral laws, sensitive police personnel and justice systems, better health facilities and sex education in schools and colleges.
  • We can learn from the women across the world that it is possible to take back our agency and demand for equity and equality.

Why is it important?

One big reason why we should vote is to challenge the epidemic of men’s violence against women and girls. We are in the midst of the “16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. This period begins on November 25th, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10, International Human Rights Day. Why do we have these days? To highlight the inequalities and harm that women and girls face every single day around the world.

Read Other Stories in #WomeAndTheVote here

The statistics of violence against women in India are horrific. From birth, we are targeted for extinction and this has resulted in India having 37 million men more than women. The 2016 data from the National Crime Records Bureau states 338,954 crimes against women – including 38,947 rapes. This means that every 15 minutes, a woman is raped in India. The safety and perception of safety in community is very poor and is reflected in the Thomson Reuters Foundation survey released earlier this year stating India is the least safe country for women. It is further corroborated by Georgetown University’s Women, Peace and Security Index which has ranked India 131 out of 153 countries. This index offers a more comprehensive measure of women’s well-being and their empowerment in homes, communities, and societies.

From birth we are targeted for extinction and this has resulted in India having 37 million men more than women.

This year alone there have been brutal rapes and gang rapes of young children, some as young as 8 months old. We have outraged over Nirbhaya, Kathu case and the harm men have done to many more young girls. And we will continue to outrage until the men in power decide to act with courage and boldness to change the entire social justice system that is intimidating, insensitive and slow. Let’s channel some of that outrage into voting.

Let’s channel some of that outrage into voting.

Yes, some measures have been taken to deal with sexual violence, but they seem like band-aid solutions that do not really address the root cause of the problem. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi proposed fast-track panels to deal with #MeToo cases but there is no further clarity on how these will function and if it will be within a legal framework. Interestingly, she has been sent a legal notice for failing to put in place an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to complete violation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The Indian Government introduced the death penalty for rape of children and raised the punishment for raping young girls below the age of 16. But there is no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent and there is no clarity if this legislation is gender neutral or not.

There is no evidence that the death penalty is a deterrent and there is no clarity if this legislation is gender neutral or not.

Therefore, as citizens, if we care for our wellbeing and quality of life, it is necessary that everyone votes, especially women. Voting is an opportunity to demand for better safety and security, a faster judicial process, gender-neutral laws, sensitive police personnel and justice systems, better health facilities and sex education in schools and colleges. The time for letting male elected representatives take us for granted is over.

Voting is an opportunity to demand for better safety and security, a faster judicial process, gender-neutral laws, sensitive police personnel and justice systems, better health facilities and sex education in schools and colleges.

In the United States, there has been an unprecedented voter turnout largely comprising of women, and an equally impressive record number of women who were elected to various government positions. These elected women leaders are already organising themselves to legislate for better health and security facilities and other policies that will benefit women and children and make the world a better place for all.

india women and the vote election

In India, we can learn from the women in the US and across the world and know it is possible to take back our agency and demand for equity and equality. I can assure you, if we don’t do so now, we might be even fewer in number by the time the next elections come around.

Views expressed are the author’s own.

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