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‘Small step, big difference’: Indian Parliament to introduce the use of ‘gender neutral’ language

Rajya Sabha Secretariat has said it will inform ministries to furnish gender neutral replies to the Parliamentary questions from the next session, according to a letter shared by Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi on Twitter.

This came after Chaturvedi wrote to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi regarding the usage of “No sir” phrase in the answers to the questions raised by women parliamentarians.

“The ministries will be informed to furnish gender neutral replies to the parliamentary questions from the next session of Rajya Sabha onwards,” said the director of the secretariat’s committee section Swarabji B in his response.

The secretariat added that all proceedings in Rajya Sabha are addressed to the Chair as per conventions and rules of procedure and conduct of business.

In the letter dated September 8, 2022 to the Union Minister, Chaturvedi wrote the phrase ‘No, Sir’ is often used in cases where the answer is in negative in the answers provided for the questions raised in the Parliament.

Anyhow, convention says the same gender-neutral terms be now followed in the Lok Sabha as well.

There are currently 33 women members in the Upper House of the Parliament. It has been observed that women in leadership positions are often referred to as “chairmen” or “party men” and that an “alarming degree” of usage of masculine pronouns gives the impression of biased power structures.

“Despite certain course corrections, both Houses of Parliament and Central Ministries have failed in one common aspect. In a compilation of ministerial replies to questions from the 17th Lok Sabha so far for 75 women parliamentarians, it was found that 84% of the answers that used salutations (sir/madam) referred to women parliamentarians as ‘sir’,” an editorial in The Hindu said.

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