The first female head of National Legal Cell of BJP's Youth Wing, Charu Pragya is a lawyer-politician, who also serves as a National Media Panelist for the BJP. She is a Fellow of the Konrad Adenauer School for Young Politicians, a founding member of the India-Israel Young Leaders Forum, and runs free legal aid centres for women across India. As a media panellist herself of a political party, Charu criticises the gendered division of political subjects between men and women, a prevalent practice in media debates. She shared her thoughts and more on a discussion, as a panellist, “Who gets the limelight? Women Politicians and Indian Media” organised by NETRI Foundation in partnership with SheThePeople.TV. NETRI Foundation is an organisation committed to enhancing women’s political participation at all levels of representation.
She elaborates, “There is an underlying assumption on the subjects women are seen experts of – they are more likely to be invited for a panel on ‘women’s issues’ but ignored during the discussions on taxation or a legal ruling. Even though the number of women politicians is on a rise, politics is still perceived as a man’s playing field. The assumption of “she’s a woman, what would she know” is incredibly deep-rooted, so much so that it is taken as absolute truth. It is unfortunate because there is an entire section of men who believe that women are only meant to be seen and not heard." Within politics, women face more targeted attacks in comparison to men. On which she says, “Women are asked personal and intrusive questions. It is easy to attack women because they only have to hit below the belt."
On the subject of the attacks that women politicians face, Charu continues, “When you look at a man, you look at a politician that’s all. With a woman you look at everything about her – about her personal life, if she married or not, has children or not.” The under-representation of women and the blatant misogyny in politics is a concerning issue. She adds, “The voices of women are suppressed further because of the gap in access to the internet and smartphones." Parents don’t let girls have access to the internet or smartphones because of fear of abuse, trolling and conservatism.
Charu is also a lawyer and litigator who emphasises on the issue of glass ceiling women face in professional fields because of the lack of representation. She believes that the empowerment of women is not only the responsibility of women, but men need to actively step up as well. When asked about the effectiveness of gender-sensitivity training in workspaces, particularly for media-houses and parliament, Charu points out that the perception a man holds in public and his private life is not mutually exclusive. It is very likely that male politicians may adhere to some guidelines because it is required of them, but it does not imply that their misogyny and patriarchal notions are done away with. This is why we need to teach boys about gender equality from the school levels itself, as a means to shape their thinking entirely, not just when it comes to their behaviors in public life. Charu advises young women who wish to participate in politics to find a cause.
She says, “An advice to young women, the first thing you have to do is to find a cause. The politics of India is changing. They need to find a cause and stick to it. Women may not have many avenues, which is why it is necessary for them to put up their opinions on social media and any other platform available. A woman needs to be twice as good as a man today. There is a platter competition, and you have to ask for what you deserve.”
Interested in recommendations that came from Pragya? Read key takeaways on women politicians and Indian media here.
Kanksshi Agarwal, is founder at NETRI Foundation and a policy researcher working at the intersection of technology, gender, society and politics.