Usha
It was a discussion on safeguarding of individual rights among married couples.
A lady complained that her husband wants her to vote for the candidate of his choice. She feels that he has no right to interfere in her right to vote - a right given to her by the constitution as a citizen of this country.
Husband retorts that the wife does not know the P O L of politics. She doesn't even read the newspapers. So he is only trying to be a responsible citizen by ensuring that her vote is not wasted on the wrong candidate. It is his duty as a responsible citizen to guide her.
This elicited a lot of disapproval from the others present.

In as much as we enjoy rights in a democracy, do we not have a responsibility too - to be aware of the political system, the parties and their policies or at least know about the candidates in order to understand if they are the right candidates to represent us? I hear many youngsters say that they only read the sports page or the entertainment pages and do not want to know about politics. " I am not interested in politics' is a refrain heard among a lot of youngsters. Is this even a choice in a democracy? And they have the right to vote by the time they turn 18. Who do they go and vote for? what criteria do they use?

If this is the case, is it even a case of interference in their rights if a more informed person tries to advise members of their family on the best candidate to vote for? Of course the ideal situation would be to enlighten the ignorant about the parties and their programs and then leave the choice to the voter. But if the person says that he/ she doesn't want to know about politics, why is it wrong if a better informed person interested in the politics of the country tells l them to vote for a certain candidate/ party?

While I am all for individual rights, I don't see this a s a case of interference in one's rights. It would be an interference if he prevented her from voting or if he punished her for voting contrary to his advice. But I think the advice per se doesn't amount to interference. I would assume that we all have such a duty in a democracy.
What do you think?
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25 Responses
  1. Praveen Says:

    Most Indian women aren't aware of the political scanario in the country. There was this lady I knew, who voted only for good looking candidates. What good use of democracy is that?!

    I don't think the husband did any wrong. Eventually she is going to vote for the candidate she wants and her husband wouldn't know, so why is she cribbing?!


  2. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with you! husband is definitely not wrong...

    - aargee


  3. R's Mom Says:

    I think I agree with you...if he had prevented her from voting then thats called interfering...this would be more of advice :)


  4. Sangi Says:

    I think it is interference. If someone chooses to throw their vote away, it is still a choice (and who is to say that it is a vote thrown away?!). I may not agree with it and it is my right to disagree. Or be vocal about who I think is a good candidate - not suggest in any way that my husband vote the same way as I do.

    That said, a lot of the vote banks will only get broken when there is true choice and not when communities vote a certain way, regardless of policies. This lady wants to vote, she seems aware enough to want to learn and as adults, isn't it our responsibility to get that learning for ourselves? Why is the husband responsible for her learning?!


  5. Anonymous Says:

    Wow neat! This is a really great site! I am wondering if anyone else has come across something
    similar in the past? Keep up the great work!


  6. Stray Says:

    Any right (including the right to vote) must be exercised freely, without any coercion.

    I certainly agree that sharing information benefits everyone. However, seeking to coerce/ influence/ manipulate anyone to vote for another person's preferred candidate or party would violate the freedom of the person who is voting. Advise and let the person vote for whomsoever s/he chooses.

    Otherwise, a lot of other people could understand politics better than one's spouse; so keep it simple and declare a winner based on the choice of the wisest citizen within the democracy! Why confine it to the spouse?!

    It is also important to understand that rights cannot exist without corresponding duties. For eg:- if someone has the right to safety, I have a duty to ensure that I do not cause the person harm.

    As such, I am a staunch advocate for citizens to exercise not only their rights (such as voting) within a democracy, but also their corresponding duties (including gathering information about each candidate and the policies which each candidate's political party supports, prior to voting).


  7. diya Says:

    If the lady feels that she is uncomfortable with such advice then the husband should refrain. I agree with 'stray', if it is the question of ignorance then she can glean information from persons other than her husband. If she is reluctant to take the advice, the husband should keep it to himself!I think the benefit of doubt should be given to her, she might have got information from TV channels, aquaintances etc and made up her mind.


  8. Anonymous Says:

    The husband claims the wife doesnt know POL of politics. And that only he knows whats good for the country.
    He doesn't say that the candidate you are planning to vote for has such and such qualities and so is unfit, while on the other hand this other candidate has such and such policies which is good for the country. He says the wife is unfit to pick someone good so she needs to listen to him.

    Suppose the husband is having the same conversation with his boss or a male friend, he in all probablity wont address them in this manner. He will make valid arguement and not demean the person.

    Holding discussions and listening to other people can certainly help increase ones knowledge about contestants. What the husband was doing here is certainly not that.This is no healthy way of "acting responsibly".


  9. MADHURI Says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. shy Says:

    I am with stray and diya. Yes, like anon said" this is no healthy way of acting responsibily.

    Any conversation which demeans the other person is not on equal footing. typicall MC attitude..wife's know nothing!


  11. Hip Grandma Says:

    I think the wife should be encouraged to understand the POL of politics and decide for herself who she'd like to vote for. No point deciding for her. This is coercion albeit a subtle form of it.


  12. Monika Says:

    i agree with hip grandma here, rather than telling her whom to vote for it would have been better if he gave her a perspective for the situation


  13. :) Ditto what Praveen said.

    It's more of a husband+wife heated argument than a "interference". So he thinks she doesn't know anything - maybe by this argument, they will actually see the other's point of view.

    Ahem - now you know how we solve things in our house - arguing!


  14. Ah, Usha, you have omitted some crucial details. Does your acquaintance/friend live in a democracy or a dictatorship (the household, not the country)? How young or old is their marriage? Has the wife contradicted her husband ever and held her position on any other matter, say, idli or dosa for tonight? Is she a "pathivrata", who has "submitted" her body and soul to her "deivam", and never missed a varalakshmi and kaaradiyan nonbu?

    You see, there's very little difference between advice, interference, and command, if the wife's only source of political information were her husband, and she had no identity of her own. So your question is really moot :)

    As for the lady who votes only for handsome guys, kudos to her! Following the pheromones is a far better idea, I think, than following the politicians' speeches. She is one in a billion voters who truly understands politics, biology and the connection between the two.

    Talk is cheap after all, but didn't someone say agathin azhagu mugathil therium (the inner beauty is seen in the outer symmetry of the face) or something like that :|

    [Sorry about the flippant comment, Usha. It has been a looo... ng time]


  15. Usha Says:

    Praveen: Voting for good looking candidates - How does that explain some of our politicians in power?

    Anon/R's mom:I felt so too. That is why this post - just to understand what I was missing in the scenario.

    Sangi: Apparently the lady wants to exercise her right to vote but could not be too bothered about understanding the political scene. So the husband was telling her to vote for a certain candidate and she did not like it.
    Do you think the vote banks will get broken this way? it seems to me that vote banks are created by people who use parochial considerations to vote rather than think beyond caste, community, religion considerations.

    Stray:
    As such, I am a staunch advocate for citizens to exercise not only their rights (such as voting) within a democracy, but also their corresponding duties (including gathering information about each candidate and the policies which each candidate's political party supports, prior to voting).
    I am with you on this.

    Diya: My maid sometimes asks me which candidate to vote for and since I dont have the ability to break down the complex issues in a way she understands I do tell her that so and so is the best in our constituency. and also tell her the symbol of that candidate.
    Should I stop this?

    Anon, shy, hhipgran,Monika: see my reply to Diya. The husband claims he is in a similar situation. ONly in my case my maid asks me for advice. In the case cited the husband was offering it unsolicited.but the level of political understanding of the wife seems to be the same as my maid.

    Justanothermommy:Arguing - what a healthy way to keep a relationship growing! I am totally with you...

    RF: Hahah, welcome back. YOu were missed for a looooooo..ng time. I guess you have been too busy with your grandchild.
    As for my acquaintances, there is quite a lot of democracy in the household. That the woman was able to express her resentment openly among her acquaintances in the presence of her husband is proof enough of this.
    As for idli/ dosa or maggi noodles for dinner , I would assume the man quietly eats what is served to him.
    Do you really think it is alright for citizens to refuse to be aware of what is going on in the political scene and then actually be allowed to exercise their votes arbitrarily? Isnt that the reason why we have the kind of people representing us in our assemblies and parliament? voting for my caste, my religion, the guys who gave me 2 k or the guy who gave us all color televisions?
    Politics- biology and the connection between the two? hm, sounds like a path breaking theory.
    One things is certain. If that theory has any valididty, at least the inside of our house would be a lot more glamorous than it is now.


  16. starry eyed Says:

    I think, if the husband really wanted to 'educate' his wife, he'd have been talking WITH her for waaay before the actual elections, encouraging her to learn and explore more. A crash course at the last minute with recos on whom to vote for is interference, IMHO.


  17. usha2 Says:

    why does the husband think she needs to be educated only by him? isn't she educated enough to have access to information for herself and make an informed choice? i have seen several educated families where the husband expects his wife and children to vote his preference. and it is very likely that that attitude would extend to other areas of life too..


  18. Change Says:

    Usha, I think that the husband has no right to goad the wife to vote for the candidate he thinks is the best. Instead he can encourage the wife to get informed about the candidates without influencing her opinion (especially when she didn't ask him which candidate she should vote for). It's annoying--the attitude that women don't know, they'll never want to know. If you come across anyone (woman or man) like that, let her/him know it's every citizen's duty to get her-/himself informed about the candidates and to vote responsibly.


  19. Seriously, voting constitutes a classic free rider / prisoners' dilemma problem in collective action. There is no easy solution, even after thousands of Ph.d's have been earned on the subject. If you are interested, you may begin here: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/free-rider/

    It's not specifically a gender issue, although the gender dynamics may skew the electoral results to favor male-centric policies. Hundreds of millions of uninformed voters and non-voters, male and female, choosing individually, cause a collective failure of democracy. Actually, what is surprising is that anyone chooses to be informed, and then vote, at a disproportionate cost to themselves!

    Public expenditure and non-partisan efforts to inform voters and encourage voting may mitigate the problem to an extent. Perhaps, this is where NGOs and activists in India must focus their attention.

    Also, internet is the greatest gift to democracy and information exchange. Witness, the role played by younger voters in Obama's election. In my casual observation, I have found that female participation in Indian political blogs and forums is abysmally low. Tell me, how often have you posted on political issues?


  20. P.S.
    Indian women won voting rights too easily. You may like to watch the American story here:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338139/plotsummary

    On YouTube here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96JifSnHhaY


  21. Dr.Antony Says:

    It appears a bit different from what you hinted. If the lay complained about the husband's interference,obviously she doesn't need any advice on it from her husband.The typical illiterate Indian woman might listen,because they depend on their husbands.It is not so during our times.In a country where a woman become president, do our women need advice on voting?


  22. Usha Says:

    Starry eyed/ Usha 2: Apparently the wife is not interested in knowing about Politics

    Change: I do try.

    The RF: Thank you for all the interesting/ informative links.
    I don't post about politics/ do film or book reviews because there are so many people out there who do it expertly, much better than I ever could.

    Dr.Antony: Come on,does having a woman as the president of the country really mean that the women of the country are truly equal and have all the rights?


  23. ashok pai Says:

    definitely! as long as the husband gives the merit of his case and the wife understands it, I sure think that influencing your spouse's decision is fine. it's at the base level marketing. to understand politics one has to follow the candidate and the politics behind the party for sometime at least. Indian politicians are the most cunning when it comes to promising the moon, and not delivering a pebble.


  24. ashok pai Says:

    @Dr.Antony,

    a woman becoming president is fine, but has she come out of consensus and a natural ascendancy due to merit ? far from it! prathibha patil came to power because a yes-woman for the first family of congress.

    if Kiran bedi had become the president, I'd agree with you. otherwise, its just hogwash.


  25. Anonymous Says:

    I think the husband is wrong because he is trying to give advice to his wife who doesnt want it. What part is confusing here?
    Lets assume that the woman is politically unaware. If her husband thinks she doesnt have the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision ( how patronizing this sounds! ) then let him help her make the decision by providing her with the information she needs. He can guide her what to look out for when voting, what parties stand for what ideologies, what are the promises made by candidates etc. Instead, he tells her to who to vote for and hte wife doesnt want to do so, then he should just back off. Persisting in his attempts to make his wife vote for a particular candidate he thinks fit is plain interference. To think that the husband has the right to do so, would mean that we should assume that the husband is perfect and his own decision making process is perfect, which in itself may be untrue. For all we know, the husband might have some bigoted ideas ( sorry if you know the person ) and making his wife vote the candidate he chooses would only do more harm than good.