In this ongoing election season, a Chennai-based organisation has come up with a  succinct list for voters and politicians to implement  gender equality. The checklist will help voters know if the political parties’ manifesto and lists of candidates reflect gender sensitivity. It is a handy tool to rate candidates and political parties.

“Democracy without gender equality is imperfect. Political parties, election officials and voters must all demonstrate a commitment to inclusivity,” said Swarna Rajagopalan from Chennai, while explaining the rationale behind designing the check-list. She is the managing trustee of Prajnya Trust, and a political analyst, columnist and consultant.

“What the Prajnya Trust has written is very succinct and to the point. Even in Assam, we tried to write some points as ‘women’s manifesto’ on equality and social justice, but this is very concise and sharp,” said Monisha Behal, executive director of North East Network in Guwahati. Assam has recently gone to polls.

“At every election, we fume over the lack of women’s representation and the near-complete absence of gender issues from election debates. We hope parties will use the checklist  as a way to articulate their commitment to gender equality.” Swarna said.

The checklist gives five  pointers to voters to guide them: “Vote for a party that shows: 1. Zero-tolerance for violence in speech or action. 2. Commitment to gender parity (or something close to it) in nominations. 3. Evidence of equal party support to male and other candidates. 4. Strong and clear positions in favour of gender equality. 5. Genuine concern about gender-related issues in speeches and interviews. This election, make true democracy non-negotiable. Vote for gender equality,” it states.

The checklist also provides a guide to political parties: “Make gender parity a guiding principle for selection, encourage members to nominate women, short-list an equal number of men and women for each seat before making a decision, actively seek to nominate a roughly equal number of men and women for the 2016 elections.” It also explains to political parties what they shouldn’t do: “DO NOT, we repeat, Do NOT nominate those facing charges relating to sexual and gender-based violence unless and until a court absolves them; do NOT nominate those guilty of sexist and misogynistic speech.”

Till now, Assam has gone to polls in two phases on 4 April and 11 April. In West Bengal, two phases of polls are over. The remaining four phases will be conducted on 21 April, 25 April, 30 April and 5 May. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will vote on 16 May.


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