Page last updated at 13:37 GMT, Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Viewpoint: 'A new liberation for Indian women'

India's upper house has approved a bill to reserve a third of parliamentary seats for women. Dancer Mallika Sarabhai, who stood in general elections last year, explains what such a move means to her.

Indian women
Women comprise nearly half of India's population

India has taken its the first step towards redemption of promises made to women 62 years ago when it attained freedom.

It was a promise of living with dignity, opportunity, self pride, fearlessness.

Today India awakens to the fact that a nation, like a human body, can not be free if it is torturing half of itself. Mutilating, destroying, deriding, wishing away. No such nation can ever be healthy.

Today we may have opened the door towards a healthy nation.

India may have unleashed forces who could bring succour to her poor, her deprived, her unsung and unheard.

And yet we might lose our way yet again.

Many men will ask: "But they will only think of their own gender. What about us?"

Well what about the men? What about all those men, who even given the opportunity, did not ask, "What about the women?"

Not once in 62 years.

Instead, some of them plundered our bodies and souls, and dishonoured us, made us afraid of further sanctions. For the women are too often the loot - our bodies, our minds, our thoughts, our wombs.

"But they will be the rubber stamps of their men," the men cry.

So what, even if some are? What are the men today but rubber stamps of their own deviousness, greed and lust for power?

Mallika Sarabhai
The women need to be chosen, trained, tutored, equipped
Mallika Sarabhai

"But aren't women as greedy and corrupt as the men," the men will cry.

Yes some are, trapped alone in the gutters called the male corridors of power, tutored by a patriarchal society that equates selfish self-interest and greed as cleverness.

And even if they are like that, it will change nothing from the status quo. Except that the women WILL be in.

And then there will be a possibility that the women will not play the game by the same rules.

That they will, in a group, be able to let their instincts of co-operation, inclusiveness and caring, of nurturing and problem solving prevail.

And that they will at last get down to the brass tacks of solving this country's fundamental problems, just like they have in their homes or in their work places for ever.

Today might not change our world.

But it will be a first step.

The road is long. The women need to be chosen, trained, tutored, equipped - not in corrupt ways but in governance, in delivery of benefits and empowerment to the last in line, in transparency. And in not succumbing to the air that prevails.

A new, liberating journey for Indian women has now begun.

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