The only two names that come to my mind when we think women and politics are, first, Margaret Thathcher - "In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman."
Second, Pratibha Patil, who gave us the opportunity to boast about having a woman president.
As far as the Panjab University Student Council (PUSC) elections are concerned, the gutsy fairer sex is seen participating actively at the time of campaigns, rallies and promotions. But when it comes to leading a party, we don't have a single name that features in the list of presidents. HT City tries to find out the reason behind the under representation of women in central roles of student parties.
Deepika Thakur, general secretary (2009), says, "Main parties such as SOPU and PUSU don't let the girls come forward. 'Jatt' guys lead the parties and cannot see a girl president dominate their position."
Sharing an example, she adds, "In 2009, a girl candidate, Aswathy Rajan, from ABVP (in alliance with SOI), contested elections for the presidential post but she received just 350 votes. The major reason is that main parties do not support girls; what's worse is that even female voters don't support girl candidates. If I can contest and win, any other girl can, provided she gets a chance."
Girls vs boys
The parties, however, have their own reasons to justify the practice. Bhupinder Singh Batth, senior SOPU leader, says, "I agree that PUSC elections are male dominated. But the post of a president, secretary and general secretary are of great responsibility. If any deserving female candidate comes forward, the party will obviously support her. I have realised that even girls don't like to come forward for these posts. Hence, a seat of vice president is
usually given to a girl as a VP comes into play only when the president is not available."
Listing other hindrances, Sumit Goklaney, PUSU party in-charge, says, "Girls face a lot of problems when it comes to living up to duties and responsibilities. For example, it gets difficult for them to sit on hunger strikes, enter the boys' hostel incase of an emergency or going to the police station at night.
Despite this, we try to give equal importance to girls if they come forward. In the current elections, we plan to give equal seats to girls as well."
Simarpal Kaur Johal, vice president, student council, says, "Look at the freshers and you will realise that they are least interested in contesting elections. Leave aside VP, they don't even want to contest for the department representative's post."
Adding to it, Harleen Kaur, LLB student, says, "I really don't blame any party because in 90% of the cases, girls usually don't want to take extra pressure. In rest of the cases, girls usually go by the decisions that their 'boyfriends' make for them."
Elected girl representatives so far
1977- 1983 Indirect elections (no representation of women)
1983 - 1984 Elections banned
1997 Elections started
1997-1998 Jaspreet Kaur Khurbanda (first vice president)
1998-1999 Sarika Malik (vice president)
1999-2000 Samriti Sharma (vice president)
2000-2001 Mukta Sharma (vice president)
2001-2002 Nidhi Puri (vice president)
2002-2003 Kanika Sachdeva (vice president)
2003-2004 Nimrat Punia (vice president)
2004-2005 Ankita Thakur (vice president)
2005-2006 Avneet Kaur (vice president)
2006-2007 Divya Gill (vice president)
2007-2008 Gagandeep Kaur (vice president)
2008-2009 Parul Chaudhary (vice president)
2009-2010 Deepika Thakur (general secretary)
2010-2011 Vibha (vice president)
2011-2012 Simran Kaur Johal (vice president)