Rajya Sabha Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said the Women's Reservation Bill should be accorded top priority and urged the political parties to refrain from politicising the issue for the sake of real empowerment of women.
In his message on International Women's Day, Naidu also expressed his concern over gender equality, safety of women and discrimination against the girl child.
"With women constituting about 50 per cent of our population, social, economic and political empowerment of women, including providing reservation in the Parliament and state legislatures, has to be accorded top priority for the country to achieve rapid progress," Naidu said in the Rajya Sabha.
He said International Women's Day is a day to celebrate and honour the untiring commitment and determination of ordinary women in India and throughout the world to achieve equality, justice and economic development.
"The famous words of Mahatma Gandhiji 'Be the change you want to see in the world' are probably more relevant today than ever before," he said.
Highlighting the issues concerning women, he said two things that should receive renewed focus are gender equality and safety of women.
"We all have to act collectively to raise awareness against discrimination of the girl child. Every household, neighbourhood, school, institutions and community should start gender-sensitisation.
"The mindset to respect girls and women should be promoted at home and in schools, public areas, public transport and at every place and every stage," Naidu said.
Stressing on the need to begin change at home, he urged the parents to ensure that the boy and girl child are treated equally.
"There cannot be two opinions on the need to eliminate even the remotest possibility of discrimination against the girl child."
Expressing concern over the lower female literacy rate compared to male literacy, he said: "This problem has to be addressed on a war footing to educate and empower women."
On the issue of curbing crimes against women, the Vice President stressed on increasing visible policing and patrolling particularly in desolate areas and during night.
"Visible policing will not only provide reassurance to people but will also be a deterrent to trouble-makers," he said.
Mentioning the tradition of respecting women, he said no religion denigrates the status of women.
"Aberrations have crept into our ways of living in modern times and they have to be eliminated. Ancient Indian thought and vision were idealistic. Unfortunately, there seems to be a big hiatus between ancient Indian thought and harsh contemporary realities."
Naidu said women have proved that they are not only second to none in any field, but better than men in multi-tasking.
"Women have made outstanding contributions in various fields in the country from building rockets to wielding a cricket bat. Be it politics, poetry, sports or business, women have excelled whenever they had an opportunity," he said.
Wishing women MPs and through them all citizens of the country, Naidu also recalled the sayings of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution B.R. Ambedkar.
After his greetings, Naidu provided opportunities to women members to speak on the issue.
When some women members, including Rajni Patil and Chhaya Verma of the Congress questioned the government's will to bring in the Women's Reservation Bill and Sampatiya Uike and Rupa Ganguly of the BJP tried to counter them, Naidu urged the members to refrain from the blame game for the cause of women.
"Don't make the issue of reservation controversial. Let's focus our attention on the issue.
"The moment you get into politics, the real issue is gone," he remarked.