It?s a man?s world!
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It?s a man?s world!

When Sohni Devi became the sarpanch of Kakarwa, prospects of women seemed brighter, writes Vibha Sharma.

india Updated: Mar 05, 2006 04:42 IST

When Sohni Devi became the sarpanch of Kakarwa, a sleepy village some 70 km from Udaipur, prospects of women, who perpetually live under the shadow of their menfolk, seemed brighter. But that was not to be.

'SP sahib', Sohni's husband Bhoor Singh, calls the shots in this remote village. The only empowerment Sohni enjoys? Her husband keeps her in good humour lest she refuses to sign papers where he has a stake. "Whenever there is a fight between us over some household matter, I blackmail him to give in to my demands," says Sohni.

Though Sohni might have got a hold on her husband and learnt to sign her name before winning the seat, which was reserved for women candidates, the womenfolk of the village are still at the mercy of age-old customs.

The government's initiative to reserve 33 per cent seats in panchayat and municipal elections for women to empower them seems to have fallen flat. The quota has only spawned a new clan of politicians -- male members of women chieftains, remote-controlling the administration.

In a state, which has a sex ratio as low as 850 females to 1,000 males, women's right is a myth. A month ago, when Sohni's elder daughter Rekha, a student of Class V, was seen talking to a boy on her way from school, she was withdrawn from school. "Being the sarpanch, I have to set the example", she says and adds that she sees no point in sending daughters for higher education, when "all they have to do is cook and raise kids." But young girls are far from happy. Rekha, who has been engaged to a boy in Surat, wants to study further.

The Rajputs and the Bhils follow a patriarchal system and female foeticide is common. Women may have got a sarpanch but fair power is still not visible through their coloured ghunghats covering their face.

First Published: Mar 05, 2006 03:29 IST