New Delhi, April 17, 2019: National Capital, set to go for Lok Sabha polls on May 12, will have special booths for women to vote. These will also be solely managed by women, said an official. Delhi has a total of 2,696 locations which will have 13,816 polling stations, with a model polling station in each of the 70 assembly constituencies. For the first time, these pink polling booths will be established during Lok Sabha elections.
The concept of pink polling booths is not new though, as we have had women-only polling booths during a few state assembly elections in the past few years including Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat. While Karnataka had 450 polling booths managed only by women, Gujarat established women-only polling booths in all of its 182 constituencies.
The areas are being identified in the city for this purpose, said Delhi’s chief electoral officer (CEO) Ranbir Singh.
“Some of the polling stations will be manned completely by women. The purpose of this exercise to showcase their abilities and engender a sense of woman empowerment,” Singh had said. Delhi’s total number of eligible voter count lies at 1,41,55,732, men are at 77,90,211 and women are at 77,90,211 and there are 690 who identify as third gender.
While the Election Commission’s initiative to start women-only polling booths seems to be one to empower women and increase their voting participation, having just 19 out of 13,816 polling stations for women is mere tokenism. The fact that they are promoting these women-only polling booths as “pink” polling booths highlight their inherent gender bias.
In March, the election commission announced that it is going to set up 40 women-only polling stations in Maharashtra. However, they added that these polling booths will not be colour-coordinated.
ECI had appealed to all states polling committees to introduce all-women polling stations in November last year, after which Rajasthan immediately picked up on the appeal and introduced it in the Assembly elections held then. The commission suggested the polling booths be called ‘Sakhi polling booth’ or ‘Pink polling booth.’ It had also instructed that the staff at these polling booths should wear pink clothes. However, it has retracted these rules of colour and clothes-coordination and has clarified that no colour should be used that will inadvertently denote the colour of any political party.
On speaking with a Delhi-based voter, Pooja Agarwal, about her thoughts on pink polling booth, she said, “The idea of ensuring a safe space for women is a good initiative but colouring it pink is promoting bias. I wouldn’t mind going to one but it shows the inherent patriarchy.” Another voter Mishika Nagpal, who works in the banking sector resonated with Agarwal’s view and added, “Since they are so few, I don’t know how it is going to accommodate the vast population of Delhi’s women.”