I’m so bored with all the testosterone flying around in Indian politics.

Everyone’s favourite manly politicians Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar are slugging it out about the specifics of Bihari DNA. Earlier this year, the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) two key thinking men Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan got into an ego clash with the head of their party, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and found themselves out in the cold. Kejriwal plays the lead in the ongoing game of thrones co-starring Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. There’s been an unlimited supply of hollow machismo from Congressman turned superhero Rahul Gandhi this past month too. In fact, I could probably use up my word count just listing all the political mine-is-bigger-than-yours battles that have played out this past year.

Once again, the boys club controls the ongoing state-as-protector narrative.

Sixty-two or 11% of the 543 elected members of parliament are women (our highest ever; still below the global average of 20%) but like their male colleagues, many are mired in corruption and controversy. A recent World Bank study of The Female Political Career concluded that it would take women 47 years to reach gender parity in parliaments across the world.

Women voters have been increasing steadily in India since the 1960s and in some states we even outnumber our male counterparts now but that hasn’t helped us either. Thus far, we’ve rarely banded together and voted on specific issues.

Two years ago, we felt proud of ourselves for a mini citizen’s movement that resulted in the Justice Verma Committee Report which emphasised the notion of consent and underlined the fact that rape is not about lust or loss of control. In 2013 we also finally recognised that acid attacks, a sick crime perpetuated mainly in south Asian countries against women, should be a separate offence and not classified in the general “grievous harm" category.

One year later, all major political parties said in their electoral campaigns that they were committed to the issue of “women’s safety." So paternalistic, right? But at least urban women were being recognised as a vote bloc; a group that could swing the result if they were convinced you would (or wouldn’t) address their concerns. Who can forget how women overwhelmingly voted for Barack Obama in 2012?

We may have foolishly expected the discussion on safety to lead to one about our right to reclaim public spaces but it has just become a bad joke. AAP’s court jester and Delhi’s former law minister Somnath Bharti recently assured us that beautiful women will be able to go out in the city at night if his party takes charge of the Delhi Police.

Of course it’s not all bad news but we are so, so far away from the finish line. You may not believe in war but wouldn’t you like to see a Indian female fighter pilot in your lifetime? Don’t you think marital rape should be a punishable offence? Don’t you want to see more women in positions of power in politics and in the workplace? So many of our listed companies couldn’t even find one woman to appoint to their board of directors despite having a full year to comply with this Securities and Exchange Board of India rule. Of course, we’ve seen that when it comes to setting the rules in a workplace that’s hostile to women, this minuscule representation of female board members—our role models by default—can end up colluding with the boys to cover up sexual harassment.

But we shouldn’t worry, we have the last mover advantage. Our dud, mostly male elected representatives provide us with so many opportunities to shine in politics, policy making and advocacy. We can still be a group that everybody has to take note of.

There are ideas to be replicated from all over the world if we just look. Our National Commission of Women should take inspiration from their counterparts in the Philippines, Asia’s top performer on the annual Gender Gap Index of the World Economic Forum. The country has ranked in the top 10 since this index was constituted in 2006. On health and education indices especially, it’s difficult to compete with this island country.

The Nordic region shines when it comes to paternity benefits and women in the workplace. Forty percent of Norway’s boardrooms are female. Sweden just increased its paternity leave to 3 months from the existing two. Africa is a rockstar when it comes to gender parity in parliament. Women make up 63.8% of the lower house in Rwanda; 42.7% in Senegal; and 41.9% in South Africa, Inter Parliamentary Union data updated in June.By now we all know that several Bangladesh gender indices are higher than ours. Pakistan already has those fighter pilots. Even gender laggard Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he wants women in 30% of all senior leadership posts in the workplace by 2020.

It was revolutionary to hear an Indian prime minister talk about sex selection and foeticide from the ramparts of the Red Fort exactly one year ago. His Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao campaign sounds great on paper. I hope it meets its main trackable goal: To improve the sex ratio at birth in 100 districts by 10 points in a year.

I think the prime minister should forget about Twitter and Facebook campaigns for his landmark schemes and, instead, enlist the help of women workers in organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party. In her book Everyday Nationalism, Kalyani Devaki Menon looks at how these active and visible women’s groups play a crucial role in recruiting ground support for the Hindu nationalism movement. The role of women here becomes even more important when you consider it is this group that shapes the views of the next generation. Why not tell them to emphasise the economic benefits of nurturing healthy, educated girls.

The biggest gender success in the Digital Age was also achieved from the grassroots. More than a million women in villages and districts have tasted power since 1992 when the constitution was amended to reserve 33% of seats (it was increased to 50% in 2009) in Panchayat Raj institutions for women.

On the other end of the spectrum, can’t some heiress activist start her own EMILY’s List style political fundraising venture for women? EMILY’s List funds pro-Democrat, pro-choice women leaders across the US. They also have a programme that finds, recruits and trains community women leaders across that country to run for office.

There’s no dearth of successful ideas already in place across the world. Now Indian women need to chart their own agenda. They need a blueprint that safeguards their interests and one that pays no heed to the mindless masculine white noise around us. Happy independence day.

Priya Ramani will share what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable every fortnight. She tweets at @priyaramani and posts on Instagram as babyjaanramani.

Also Read: Priya’s previous Lounge columns .

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