Today’s session of Rajya Sabha began with a statement on women’s day by the Chairman Venkiah Naidu. He said:
Today is international women’s day. March 8, 2018, is a day to celebrate the honour, untiring commitment and determination of ordinary women in India and throughout the world justice to achieve equality and economic development. Famous words of Mahatma Gandhiji, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ are probably more relevant today than ever before. Many issues concerning women get highlighted today. But two things which I feel should receive renewed focus and need more attention [are] gender equality and safety of women. We have to act accordingly to raise awareness against discrimination of the girl child. Every household, neighbourhood, school, institution, the community should start gender sensitisation.
After some preliminary formalities of the house, the Chairman allowed women MPs to speak on international women’s day.
Congress Rajya Sabha member Ambika Soni spoke first and proposed that a resolution reiterating the commitment of all parties on the women’s reservation bill be moved. Renuka Choudhary quoted Mahatma Gandhi’s words ‘The day a woman can walk freely on the roads at night, that day we can say that India has achieved Independence.’ She went on to say that day had still not arrived in India. The Congress MP also said that the number of crimes against women had increased.
Rajani Patil of the Congress read out a poem of Amrita Pritam’s poem ‘वह कहता था, वह सुनती थी’. While elaborating the mood expressed in the poem she went on to say that women of the day should be given the right to speak out.
Sampatiya Uikey of the BJP said that she was proud of the fact that women were being represented in Panchayati Raj institutions. She thanked Madhya Pradesh CM for his resolve to award death penalty for molesters of minor girls. She highlighted rising enrollment of women in colleges after passing school. She thanked the PM for giving key portfolios to Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman.
Viplove Thakur of INC expressed regret that women were not represented in Rajya Sabha house panels and said that equality should start in the house. The Chairman responded by saying that he would take action on the matter.
Kanimozhi of the DMK said that women should be respected for what they are and not their role/sacrifice as mothers, sisters and daughters. The MP said that workplaces were not safe for women and their representation in jobs are low. She asked the government to pass the women’s reservation bill as soon as possible and assured the support of all parties for the bill.
Anu Aga, the nominated member remarked that she found it strange only women celebrate women’s day and men don’t celebrate a men’s day. Men have the opportunity and one-upmanship throughout the year, she said. The MP said, “I am not for this tokenism allowing women to speak, giving them the opportunity. If we look at India, if we look at the female foeticide which is on the rise. Safety of the women is not there. So I request all the men to stop throwing crumbs at us and this tokenism.” She demanded that opportunities and respect must be given throughout the year.
Rupa Ganguly of the BJP said that women were humans first and women next. She felt that women’s day does bring joy to her and especially to those who have not been empowered so far. She recalled an incident where she was admonished by other women for giving up her women’s seat on the bus for an old man. In a veiled reference to West Bengal, she said that a state where a woman is CM should not be seeing the largest number of crimes against women.
Sushma Swaraj remarked that all men in the house had supported the women’s reservation bill. She said that the day was an opportunity to thank women and address women’s issue. She felt that she was proud that many women CMs, a women president, a woman prime minister and party leaders had risen without reservation. She highlighted that BSF women biker team had participated in the Republic day. In spite of this progress, she said that women were being discriminated against. She concluded by saying that the women empowerment should become a social movement and not restricted to a government program.
The discussion involved participation of some male MPs including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Vijay Goyal. The Rajya Sabha held a fairly decent and largely apolitical discussion on women’s issues on the day.