Activists call out skewed representation of women MPs in parliamentary panel on marriage age

Sushmita Dev

The parliamentary panel which will be examining the bill that seeks to raise the legal marriage age of women to 21 has only one woman Member of Parliament out of 31.

The amendment to the prohibition of child marriage was introduced in the Lok Sabha during the Winter Session and sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports chaired by BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe.

Interestingly, TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev is the only female parliamentarian in the 31-member panel which will be looking into the bill. This skewed representation of women MPs in a bill that will directly impact the lives of women has raised eyebrows.

Read | Priyanka Chaturvedi demands more inclusive panel to review legal marriage age for women

India Today reached out to some prominent women activists on what their views are on the representation of women MPs in the parliamentary panel. Speaking to India Today, Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, an author and columnist on gender and sexuality said, “We are seeing only one women speaking on behalf of the entire women of this country, isn’t this just tokenism? I really fail to understand how this step promotes diversity and inclusion when there is hardly any equality or fair representation of women on the parliamentary committee.”

Sharing a similar view point, prominent women’s rights activist Yogita Bhayana said, “I think this is the saddest and most ironical reality of our country, that the bill that is supposed to be taking care of women empowerment and children youth has only one women from one particular party that is always very progressive about women representation, but what about other parties? Where are the regional parties? We shout slogans on Beti, but where are the Betis?”

Echoing the same, Tahira Hasan, Vice-President, All India Progressive Woman Association, called the poor representation of women MPs in the panel.

Taking a dig at the Opposition, Deputy Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “This is the tie that people are questioning the composition of the standing committee. The composition is not decided by the government. Which MP will be sent as a representative to a standing committee is decided by the respective political parties.”

The parliamentary committee will meet on January 5 to deliberate on the method to review the bill. Usually, the committees calls for public response to deliberate upon bills and if the chairman wishes, he can invite more women representatives to the panel.