Woman votes: She becomes a citizen
But this vision of Jesus took centuries to sink down into world conscience and consciousness to become the unrestricted suffrage rights of women and in 1893 it was a Christian nation New Zealand that first time passed a resolution conferring on women the right to vote in a political process and to stand for election.
By Joe Palathunkal
No other personality in history has given women the sense of being a human person like Jesus Christ. It is through women he gave his stunning messages of freedom and equality to a society where women did not count at all except as a submissive and subdued agent of a patriarchy.
It is to this society that Jesus proclaimed that at marriage man and woman becomes inseparably one and equal, it is to this society he declared let him throw the first stone who has not sinned.
But this vision of Jesus took centuries to sink down into world conscience and consciousness to become the unrestricted suffrage rights of women and in 1893 it was a Christian nation New Zealand that first time passed a resolution conferring on women the right to vote in a political process and to stand for election. Thus this small south-western Pacific nation bagged the honour of being the first to recognize woman as a citizen.
It means a lot because becoming citizen of a nation invariably asserts and affirms that woman is a political personality equal to men with inalienable rights and freedoms. It brought women to the decision making slot of the political spectrum and her thinking and thoughts became equal to that of men. It was the biggest blow to the entrenched and entangled patriarchy that so far remained the sole authority of the decision making in the society and polity.
Her vote became equal to his vote and her decision became equally valuable and considerable like that of his decision. Bringing women into the decision-making realm was an incredible revolution that affected politics and society drastically. Unfortunately, we have social systems and customs that still restrict and restrain women from decision making turning her into a submissive entity.
The International Woman Suffrage Alliance (IWSA) founded in Berlin, Germany, 1904, by Carrie Chapman Catt and others became the most powerful socio-political weapon to force countries to allow unrestricted suffrage to women. Yet even in this 21st century AD there are many countries in the world where there are indirect restrictions on women to exercise their voting rights.
Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, Nigeria and several others have an unwritten code that says woman cannot get out of her home without her husband’s permission which indirectly forbids her to go to the polling booth. Saudi Arabia is the latest to confer voting rights to women in 2015.
Even the United States, the icon of freedom with the Statue of Liberty, enacted the law to enable women to vote only in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution but it came to some prominent Christian countries still late – Spain 1933, France 1944, and Italy 1946. Though Greece prides in giving to the world Cleisthenes known as the “Father of Athenian democracy” yet it gave women the right to vote only in 1952.
Though India was thoughtful enough to confer voting rights to women at the very introduction of the Constitution in 1950 itself, yet it is a matter of shame and concern that we have not succeeded in passing a law to decide the percentage of women in the parliament, and in every election our political dispensations are irrationally stingy to field women candidates in the fray.
This should not happen because UN human rights declaration has told us in unequivocal terms that all human beings are created equal. It was indeed an echo of what we heard in the synagogue of Nazareth (Luke 4: 18 – 19) “to let the oppressed go free”.
International Women’s Day reminds everyone that woman is an equal citizen of every nation on this earth and her suffrage rights are inherent to her, not an appendix condescendingly given by a reluctant patriarchy.
(March 8: International Women’s Day to remind the world about the condition and situation of women all over the world)
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)
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