Providing reservations to a particular section of community in government jobs and other institutions is generally the highlight of any political party’s agenda these days. Now there have been discussions about providing reservations to women in government jobs and democratic institutions like legislative assemblies and Parliament also. Sometimes one feels that basically the reservation issue is nothing but a populist policy of a government, but still it is necessary to discuss the rationale behind such a policy. Can reservations for women be an effective measure and do the women really require such special treatment? These are the points which need to be addressed. It is nothing but a truism to say that the present status of women in the Indian society vis-à-vis the status of men is far from satisfactory. For centuries, Indian society like most of the other societies has been a male-dominated one. Perhaps the degradation of the status of women started in the later Vedic period, because in the Rig – Vedic period we have references to many women scholars like Matitreyi, Gayatri etc. These women scholars might have been exceptions in the society, yet they did reflect upon the general attitude of the society and a relatively good status of the women. But in the later Vedic period the situation started changing drastically with the increased dominance of the puritan and obscurantist ideas. Women’s condition had reached it abyss by the medieval period with systems like “Sati”, “Parda”, polygamy, maltreatment of widows etc. entrenching themselves. Thus see in the historical as well as contemporary perspective, reservation for women seems desirable. Reservation for women both in government jobs and democratic institutions – would amount to a positive discrimination. But it might foster a sense of inferiority complex among the women that they have been, as if were, provided with crutches to walk on, to struggle in the demanding world. Also,...
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