The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shabana’s House lessons

New Delhi, Aug. 24 (PTI): Shabana Azmi, an activist parliamentarian who has championed women’s reservation in the Lok Sabha and Assemblies, feels the present bill cannot be passed and an alternative has to be considered.

“I think the bill in its present form cannot be passed. One has to be realistic and look at an alternative proposal,” she said in an interview as she prepares for life after expiry of her Rajya Sabha term later this month. Women’s reservation is not a magic wand with which all problems of women will disappear. What it will do is to give women the right to participate in the decision making process.”

The actress said the proposal for dual membership as a way out would be welcome if it is implemented in 100 per cent of the seats so that women get equal representation. “Perhaps, the answer lies in making it legally binding for all political parties to give 33 per cent seats to women as a constitutional amendment,” she said.

From Bollywood to social activism to Parliament, it has been an enriching journey for Shabana, who has now been approached by more than one party to play an active role in politics. “I have not made up my mind. I have been approached by more than one party.”

Shabana, however, intends to continue her work on housing rights for underprivileged, women’s issues, health and education, with which she has been associated for years.

Acting will continue to occupy a prominent place in her life. She is starting shooting for Mahesh Dattani’s film Morning Raga from September 1, in which she plays the role of a Carnatic singer.

Shabana, who found her stint perhaps the most educative of all her experiences, said: “I think it was a privilege for me. I was able to witness first hand the vibrancy of Indian democracy. What I realised first of all is that there is plurality of contesting voices that need to be accommodated in national interest. To be able to do this without fear is the hallmark of a democracy and in this context, India does itself proud.

“It is in this House that I learned how it is possible to shout on top of your voice without any bitterness spilling over into your personal lives — that it is desirable to remain civil even when you hold bitterly opposite points of view.”

She had recently called for a uniform civil code based on gender justice in a special mention in the House. She said personal laws of all religions discriminate against women on matters of inheritance, divorce and maintenance. “Let us cull out the just and equitable laws of all religions and have a blueprint that ensures justice for all women. This should be discussed threadbare at the national level. However, this cannot be the Hindu code imposed uniformly on all religions.

“Polygamy and triple talaq are unjust to women just as the advantages to the male members of the Hindu undivided family in property matters is unjust to women. Both will have to be dropped.”

The actress, a nominated member to the Rajya Sabha, said: “It is argued that minorities resist the uniform civil code because they are reluctant to integrate with the main stream. This is patently absurd. Does uniformity undermine or promote unity is a question we need to dwell on.”

“The function of all laws is to promote freedom and ensure justice. National integration can occur when minorities feel secure and have access to jobs, when their life and property is not jeopardised each time a communal riot is engineered, when the guilty get punished and justice is perceived to be done.”

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