Prohibition Poll Talk Isn’t Women’s Empowerment
Politicians are aiming at creating a new vote bank by mixing wine & women
New Delhi: From Bihar to Tamil Nadu,politicosaredesperatelytrying tomixwineandwomentobrewanew electoral elixir that will bring them power. This could be a special brand of gender politics aimed at creating a new vote bank. Like everyone appropriating the Dalits and the OBCs, or the non-BJP parties seeking to own up the minorities during elections, women are becoming a new target group for politicians.
But women as a separate group are being wooed merely as victims of their own alcoholic husbands. The whole premise of prohibition as ‘an electoral promise for women’ is the idea of a woman as an appendage to her violent, alcoholic husband, who canbeliberatedonlyif thehusbandis denied his daily drink.
“The framing of women as victims is worrisome,” points out sociologist Shiv Vishwanathan, “and prohibition is just a quick fix for social problems. Electorally this means that they are running out of Socialistic ideas. Prohibition may look more radical thanNREGA,butitisnot.Prohibition can only create a few Bihari Al Capones. In reality, whatever subsidy gains are offered in terms of social welfare measures will all fail with dwindling revenues.” From M Karunanidhi to Vaiko to Anbumani Ramadoss, all Tamil Nadupartieshaveturnedprohibition into their biggest poll issue, forcing chief minister J Jayalalithaa to announce phased prohibition when she returns to power. Political observer A Marx explains that the feeling among womenthattheirhusbandsshouldbe denied alcohol is only borne out of patriarchy and lack of empowerment. “Women being made to depend on their husband’s income is not empowerment. And at the political level, nothingcouldbemoreinsincerethan this issue of prohibition. After long years of prohibition, DMK had lifted thebanin1971.Rajajiwassupposedto have met Karunanidhi to plead with him not to do this,” reminisces Marx.
He predicts that “prohibition will only cause criminalisation of the poor, greater corruption among lawenforcers and oppression and harassment by the police.”
US offers the best global example of the failure of prohibition. According to varying estimates, over 10,000 people died of spurious liquor between 1920 and 1933, when Al Capone is supposedtohavebuilta$100-millionbootlegging industry. The bootlegging gangsters virtually established the Americanorganisedcrimeracketsin narcotics, gambling, prostitution, loan sharking and extortion. If religion was the driving factor in the US, it is politics here.
Does prohibition really help working class women from the poorest sections, particularly the Dalits? NT RamaRaowasthefirstchief minister to have turned prohibition into a woman’sissue,whenhebannedcountryliquorinOctober1993andbrought in total prohibition in January, 1995. Mallepalli Laxmaiah, founder of Cent re f o r Dal i t S t udi e s in Hyderabad, points out the fallacy of the argument that prohibition helps women lead a happily married life.