People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 16

April 27, 2008


Against Gender Discrimination

Resolution Adopted At the XIX Congress on March 31, 2008

1. For Women’s Reservations

THIS XIX Congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demands that the UPA government honour the commitment it has made in the Common Minimum Programme for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill for the reservation of one-third of all seats in state assemblies and parliament for women. Today the dismal representation of women in the Indian parliament of around 8 per cent is less than those of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In the 16 elections for state assemblies held since 2004, the number of women elected as a proportion of all persons elected is just 7 per cent. This is a shameful commentary on the state of Indian democracy and reflects the lack of political will of successive central governments.

The XIX Congress demands that, given the support that the Bill enjoys across political parties, the UPA government should not be restricted by the objections of a single constituent, but should act boldly to bring the Bill to parliament in the coming session.

2. In Support of Self-Help Groups

The XIX Congress extends its warm greetings to the millions of women organised in self-help groups, who belong mainly to socially and economically exploited sections of society. By managing savings and micro-credit collectively, they have created a significant example of women’s collective enterprise and strength.

The XIX Congress demands necessary steps by the central and state governments to extend all support to self-help groups to develop income-generating schemes. The bureaucratic procedures for grading the groups must be dismantled and women given easy access to bank linkages and loans. The interest rate on loans to self-help groups must be reduced to 4 per cent and the ceiling on the amount of loans be removed. Training and marketing facilities must be organised. The Congress also demands that governments that involve self-help groups in implementing government schemes must ensure an adequate income for the group and not use them as cheap sources of labour.

The XIX Congress, while supporting the need for legislation to regulate micro-finance institutions, strongly opposes the Micro-Finance Bill, which, in its present form, is damaging the rights and interests of self-help groups. The Congress demands a complete redrafting of the Bill and a change in its objectives in order to protect the rights of self-help groups over their own savings.

3. Against Violence against Women and Children

The XIX Congress demands that the central and state governments take immediate steps to deal with ever-increasing violence and crimes such as trafficking against women and girls, including making changes in the relevant laws and following up cases speedily. While cases of sexual harassment, sexual harassment at the work place, assaults on minors, domestic violence, dowry-related deaths and honour killings have increased, conviction rates remain low, encouraging further crimes. According to the National Crime Records Bureau Report (2006), while there were a total of 74,659 rape cases pending from the previous year, trials were completed and convictions obtained in only 5.1 per cent of cases.

The devalued status of women is reflected in the continuing decline of females in the population as a result of sex-determination tests. In the states of Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi, there has been a most alarming decline in juvenile sex ratios. If sex ratios are measured as females per 1000 males, sex ratios have dropped by more than 50 points in 70 districts in 16 states. In these districts, the sex ratios are below 900. While a widespread social campaign to protect the girl child is essential, it is shameful that the laws against sex-determination are not being implemented. Although a large number of doctors are making profits through sex-determination tests, only one doctor has been convicted for this crime in the whole country. This Congress demands the implementation of the law against sex-determination and punishment to the guilty.

The XIX Congress calls upon all Party members and units to join the struggle against violence against women and children in all its forms.

The demands of this resolution must form part of our struggles in the coming days.