Women hold up half of this nation, and have an equal claim to decision-making.
Today, we have inspiring role models in every field – from ISRO scientists to athletes. But we need to do so much more to end the bias that sets in right at birth, and deprives women of their share in nutrition, healthcare, education, employment, resources and life-chances. The Congress party and I are determined to do everything we can to make this possible.
Statistics about violence against women are often bandied about, but we need to work on the solutions, with urgency. We must care about women’s safety and security, and we must care about their freedom. They are citizens who must have an economic, political and social voice – as guaranteed by the Constitution of India.
It was a Congress government that introduced gender budgeting, and our policies like MNREGA have kept women in mind at every step – be it equal wages, involvement in audits, and direct payment into bank accounts. Every action that helps women is our cause, like our recent successful campaign to end GST on sanitary pads.
Indian women, whatever their other social identities, deserve equal rights in inheritance, marriage, separation, spousal support and so on. We are committed to this cause. Along with economic empowerment, it is pertinent that our country demands equal political representation of women. While panchayats in many states have 50 percent reservation for women, they are still shamefully under-represented in state assemblies and Parliament. Only 11 percent of seats are occupied by women currently, and this must change. The Congress championed the women’s reservation bill in Parliament, and passed it in the Rajya Sabha, but, unfortunately, it lapsed. We offer our wholehearted support to its passage. We need women to frame policy, to strengthen party organisations, and to lead us to a fairer future.