Wives of Officials Not to Contest Election? — Dr (Mrs) T Francis

[In response to the restriction on the wives of officials contesting the elections. Dr (Mrs T) Francis, who was elected from the Ernakulam constituency to represent women, objected strongly to this. Proceedings of the Cochin Legislative Council, 8 February 1947, pp 475-76. Dr Mrs T Francis was a passionate advocate for women’s rights in the Cochin Legislative Council, though sadly enough we do not know much about her. ]

Mrs T Francis:  As I was on my legs discussing this very resolution as far as the women of the country are concerned, of course it was time, 5 p.m, the day was closed for the session. So I am just continuing my speech. As I was continuing my speech I was interrupted by the Minister for Food and Education enlightening me by saying that there is no restriction, no rule in the constitution and electoral rules. So there can be no ban on those who are not really officials. I am glad to hear about it. In spite of such enlightenment and the very person well-versed in electoral rules and has studied it thoroughly, I must take it as a valuable piece of information gained in our favour. Encouraged by such remarks by the Minister for Food and Education, I ask again, why is this difference? What is the reason for it? Why are the wives banned and the husbands of the lady officials are allowed to stand for election in these days of equality, why is this difference? I cannot for a moment understand implications involved in it. I remember once when there were questions about this in the Council the leader of the official bloc, the Chief Secretary, said that Government thought that it is better that women are kept silent, kept inactive in the political field for the safety of their husbands. I cannot understand that. Somewhere there is an antediluvian order where I read something of this for the acts of the Government officials husbands are responsible. If really the wife does wrong, punish her properly.

Mr V R Krishnan Ezhuthassan (Oorakam):  On a point of information is there any restriction on wives standing for elections?

Minister P Govinda Menon (Minister for Food and Education): There is none.

Mrs K Dakshayani Velayudhan (Nominated): If my memory is correct, I think there is a circular sent to all schools during the time of the last election that wives are not expected to stand.

Mrs T Francis (Ernakulam-Women): It is a great injustice done to our women of our country. If there is a circular like that immediate orders must be issued cancelling that order.

If the wives of the Government officials cannot, husbands of Government lady-officials must also be banned. If in their actions in the political field, ladies commit offences, punish them. If husbands go wrong let him be equally punished. If the wives of the Government officials are under restriction the same restrictions should be extended to the husbands also. Is it because Government suspects that men officials will use their official influence for canvassing votes for their wives. If they say so, what are the grounds for them to think that the lady-officials would not help their husbands when standing as candidates for elections. Government have not made their position clear. This restriction referred to in my resolution implies that women officers are more trustworthy than men. This is an insult to men and their honesty and character. Hence I believe that most of the non-official Hon’able Members of this House will protest emphatically against this objectionable insinuation and support my resolution. Further I wish to say that an official who violates a Government Order in order to help his wife will also yield to receive bribes to make his wife comfortable.  The argument to support this differential treatment is not strong enough. Equal treatment must be meted out to both men and women. I hope that these grievances will be redressed immediately without hesitation. I can quote many instances. I think this unsympathetic attitude is due to the law-abiding nature of women of Cochin State. I can quote many instances in which justice is not shown to us, not only in this particular case, there are very many instances, which I do not want to narrate. Government knows about it. So before going too long over these things, and without losing time and we are very near to our next election…

P. Kumaran Ezhuthassan (Vatakkanchery): Who said that? One of our Hon’able Ministers said that there will be no election for the coming three years.

Mrs T Francis (Ernakulam–Women): Let it be three years or more. I only want to say that at least in the coming election , allow the wives of Government officials to stand as candidates for the next election without any restriction, because we want to educate women to come out of their houses and serve in the political field for the betterment of the country. There are honest, noble-hearted women here. Cochin is not wanting in such respects.

Mr. Deputy-President: The Hon’able Member has taken considerable time.

Mrs T Francis (Ernakulam — Women): One minute more Sir, I request Government and all my brethren here who have got wives, sisters and mothers young enough to come to the Council to support this resolution whole-heartedly and make the Government understand it…

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