The campaigning and the constant whatsapp forwards for the upcoming 2019 Indian general elections, to constitute the 17th Lok Sabha is on full swing. We are anticipating the results for counting on 23rd of May. Most conversations are rife with debates on the current situation in India. Many leave family groups because of differences in opinion.The only hope we have is a change in the system. Everytime I read an article or watch a gory news of injustice, I am distraught and break down with the hope of change.
Also as a woman I can’t help but notice the history of women politicians, activists and social reformers who fought hard and strong for something as basic as voting rights for women in India.
It’s amusing and appalling that in 1948 the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, where women were allowed to be part of the voting procedures. Indian women began their suffragette movement when Lord Edwin Montague, Secretary Of State for Foreign Policy India, came to survey the political scene with a view to change constitutional reforms.
Annie Besant, Margaret Cousins and Dorothy Jinarajadasa, the three Irish women theosophists, who had also been suffragettes in their own country started the Women’s Indian Association. 23 women from different parts of India signed the memorandum, demanding equal rights in the voting procedures and an equal say in the political system of India.
The Indian National Congress at its session in Calcutta in 1917, presided by Annie Beasant and also supported by the Muslim League gave their petition for equal voting rights. Finally in 1920 Cochin was the first to give voting rights to women. Eventually the Government Of India Act Of 1935 increased the number of enfranchised women and removed the previous conditions of being a wife to be allowed into the voting procedures. All women over 21 were eligible to vote.
Women like Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, Muthulakshmi Reddy, Annie Beasant, Sarojini Naidu and so many more were the foundation of a movement that treated us as equal human beings.
As we gear up to a better India with less cases of female infanticide, rape, dowry, acid victims, sexual harassment; I know it’s been a long journey of women who thought and acted fearlessly. They were not worried to be singled out in the system. I salute all the women warriors without whom freedom even today would’ve been a distant dream. We are because of you.