Indian Decade

Getting Over India’s Gender Bias

Isn’t it time to stop judging female politicians solely on what they do to improve the status of women in India?

Feminists are rejoicing at the prospect of more and more Indian women assuming top political office. The latest to join the ladies’ club are Jayaram Jayalalithaa, who was anointed chief minister of Tamil Nadu, and Mamata Banerjee, who crushed the Left parties to become West Bengal chief minister.

This tectonic shift in the power equation will hopefully set right the gender imbalance in the country’s political landscape, which is so bustling with husbands, fathers and sons.

Even so, many people are now asking whether these developments really will help improve the overall lot of women here. This is irritating. Why is it expected to be down only to women like those just elected to improve the lot of females in this country? Why aren’t male politicians being subjected to the same scrutiny and expectations over their efforts toward gender equality?

As has been the case for decades, we are continuing to assess the work of female politicians through the narrow prism of gender. Why not broaden our worldview and ask, for instance, how good they are as administrators? And if they are providing political stability, better governance, more jobs, compulsory education for kids and nutritious food for all?

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India’s spunky female politicians have got this far by fighting crippling inequities—gender discrimination, disenabling legislation, contempt from male colleagues and in some cases even physical abuse. They need to be given space to perform, and should be judged by the same parameters as their male colleagues.

Isn’t it about time we stopped seeing them through the gender issue prism?