Bidar ZP passes resolution against officer who did not want men to stand in for their wives

Bidar Zilla Panchayat on Friday passed a resolution against an officer who had refused to allow spouses of women members to stand in for them in meetings and functions.

The panchayat members, through the resolution, urged the government to transfer Ujjwal Kumar Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer.

There were voices of disapproval at the meeting against the officer’s “disrespect” for women members’ husbands. There was an argument that women have several responsibilities at home, and therefore, cannot attend every government function or meeting. The women members argued that their husbands should be allowed to stand in for them on such occasions, and that this was the practice across the State.

This is not the first time that the issue has come up in a panchayat meeting. Two years ago, Yadgir Zilla Panchayat passed a resolution urging the government to allow spouses of women panchayat members to accompany them to official meetings as most of them were uneducated and needed help.

Women members in the Yadgir Taluk Panchayat did not attend meetings for a year after the executive officer refused to grant their husbands permission to attend meetings.

Legal experts say the officials are right in their decision and the women panchayat members are wrong.

“The concept of reserving some seats for women is to increase women’s participation in the decision-making process. Allowing men to take their place would kill the spirit behind this idea,” C.S. Dwarakanath, former chairman of the Karnataka State Backward Commission, said.

C.S. Vedamani, convenor of Samarasa, NGO fighting for women’s rights, says: “For decades, women’s organisations have been demanding 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and State legislatures. Are we doing it so that once this is implemented, the spouses of women MPs will come and sit in Parliament in their places?” She demanded action against the zilla panchayat for making such demands.

Patriarchy, feudalism

K. Neela, Janawadi Mahila Sanghatane president, said that the episode smacks of patriarchy and feudalism, suggesting that women cannot trade their domestic responsibilities for an opportunity in public service?

“It is another way of saying women should stay at home and aspire for nothing else,” she said.

She pointed out that it also suggests that women public representatives are not considered “working” women. “Women members in the zilla panchayat are still seen as housewives or mothers who are expected to finish their job in the kitchen before stepping out,” Ms. Neela said.

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