Teddy bears for women voters in Goa get thumbs down

Teddy bears for women voters in Goa get thumbs down
Ever heard of teddy bears triggering controversy in election season in India? But then it’s Goa, where the decision of the poll authorities to award first-time women voters with teddy bears and set up 40 special all-pink, all-women voting booths, has provoked women intellectuals in the coastal state.

Chitrangi, a progressive women’s group, in a representation to Goa’s Chief Electoral Officer Kunal, said that the poll authority’s decision to gift teddy bears and pink polling booths is archaic and one that enhances gender disparity.

“Your office intends to project women empowerment through this drive. We fail to understand how this can be achieved by wearing pink dresses and giving pink teddy bears to first-time female voters. We strongly object to such stereotyping through colours and gifts, which have strong roots in the typical gender disparities that exist in our country,” Prashanti Talponkar of Chitrangi told DH. However, the CEO has already placed an official order for 1,000 teddy bears and work is underway to furbish the 40 polling booths with pink paint and other upholstery.

“Our attempt is to celebrate women power in these elections,” Kunal explained. Goa has around 11.10 lakh registered voters, of which 5.46 lakh are males and 5.64 lakh are females.

In the February 4 elections, 32,354 first-time voters in 18-19 age group, of which nearly half are women, are expected to cast their votes. Prashanti suggested that instead of only first-time women voters being given gifts, debuting male voters should also be given incentives.

“Can we think of ways by which both men and women can be encouraged to vote in the upcoming elections? Giving gifts as token is welcome, but for all genders and in a better form, which has some educational or intellect value. Voting is a right and a privilege, which is given across gender and all divides. It is therefore necessary to make the new voters understand their duty to vote,” she said. For now, the CEO has assured that pens as gifts for first-time male voters would work well. “He gave us a patient ear and said that first-time male voters could be given pens as an incentive,” Prashanti said.

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