The novelist said that while political equality can be given to women, there's still no financial or social equality in society.
Equality is not something to be given to women, but it is to be taken by them as they constitute half of the population, a well-known Indian novelist said at the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters (MBIFL) 2024 being held in Thiruvananthapuram.
Sarah Joseph, an Indian novelist and short story writer in Malayalam, said that while political equality can be given, there was still no financial or social equality in society.
She said that this was due to the reason that the political parties only see elections as a means of claiming or establishing power and were therefore not interested in the electorate being made aware of their powers and rights.
The novelist, who became a member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and contested as its candidate from the Thrissur constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, said that even the ruling CPI(M) in Kerala or its Left front government cannot provide 33 percent seats to women in the upcoming Lok Sabha due to the lack of 33 percent reservation for women within their parties.
Citing figures of women’s success in elections, Joseph said that in the last Lok Sabha polls in Odisha, 71 percent of the women, who were given seats to contest, emerged victorious.
“The same thing happened in West Bengal. It indicates that if a seat is given to women they will win it,” she said during a session called “Kerala built by women” at the 5th edition of MBIFL where over 400 speakers from around the world have been invited to participate and share their views and experiences.
Joseph, who is the recipient of many awards, including the Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award, Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award, and Padmaprabha Literary Award, further said she was opposed to the terms “give” or “reservation” when talking of women’s role in society and decision-making regarding development.
“When we are talking about ‘Kerala built by women’, what role do women have in that? Have women been able to take any decision with regard to development?” she asked.
“Equality is not to be given, but taken by women. Women form 50 percent of the population. There is no need to give them equality. There is no need for them to seek or request for 33 percent reservation,” the novelist said.
She pointed out that while political equality can be given, there is still no financial or social equality in society. “If social equality were there, then women, transgenders, Dalits, etc, would not need to beg or ask for reservation or favours. To create such a society, we need to envision it,” she added.
“However, we have been unable to create a society where women have equality,” Joseph said.
The MBIFL which began on 8 February will conclude on 11 February. The theme for this year’s edition of the literary event is “Exploring Plurality” — a 360-degree attempt at understanding diverse perspectives, cultures, and identities.
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