A British government document purporting to highlight some of the world’s most significant events of the past 100 years involving women is unlikely to cause much cheer in India – or indeed on the subcontinent — as it curiously leaves out both Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto.
The only Asian politician who makes it to the 27-strong UK-centric list, Women in Power: Milestones, is Sirimavo Bandaranaike as the world’s first elected woman Prime Minister. In fact, she is the sole non-British symbol of “woman power” on a list groaning with domestic personalities and events such as the “first Asian woman councillor,” the “first black female mayor,” and “100 years since first woman councillor appointed.”
There was confusion over whether the document, which lists events between 1907 and 2008, related only to Britain’s women-related milestones or had a broader global remit. If it was only about Britain then how was Ms. Bandaranaike’s name included? And, if it was a global list then why were important figures such as Indira Gandhi and Ms. Bhutto, the first woman to lead a Muslim state, excluded?
There was also controversy when it emerged that the document did not mention Margaret Thatcher by name saying only “1979: UK’s first woman Prime Minister" while listing names of relatively less famous Labour figures. The government’s Equalities Office which produced the document and is run Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman was accused of “air brushing” Ms. Thatcher. A spokesman said it was an “oversight” and had been corrected.