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Women & Conventional Politics…

As the Global Community celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8, it is, perhaps, the right time to assess the Role played by Women in Indian Politics. Many consider the election of 78 women MPs in the 2019 Parliamentary Elections as a bright side of women’s representation in Indian Politics… However, is the situation is so promising, in reality?

It has been observed that, in a nutshell, Women in India participate in voting, run for public offices and political parties at lower levels more than men. Women’s turnout during India’s Parliamentary Elections was 65.63%, compared to 67.09% turnout for men. India has ranked 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in the Parliament.

Despite repeated attempts in the past, the Bill for Mandatory Reservation of 33% seats for women in the 545-seat Lower House of the Parliament and Provincial Assemblies is yet to be passed. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had promised to reserve 33% seats for women in its manifesto for the 2019 Parliamentary Polls. However, it is yet to keep its promise. Political Analyst Biswanath Chakraborty has said: “The reservation of 33% seats for women is still limited to Panchayat (rural) and Municipal Elections. That rule could not be enacted at National and Provincial levels.

The scenario is reflected in the latest report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. As per the report published on January 1, 2021, India secured the 148th position among 188 countries, in terms of Women’s Participation in Politics! Meanwhile, a Sociologist stressed: “The Participation of Women in Politics and the Status of Women in a Society are two different issues. For example, Pakistan (116th place) is ahead of India in the list. However, the situation of Pakistani women is not better than their Indian counterparts.

Many believe that Women’s Empowerment will remain mostly in Theory, unless more women join politics, or become part of the decision-making process. The percentage of women members in the Lower House of Indian Parliament was 7.2 in 1997. Of course, the number doubled in the next two decades. However, only 617 women were elected to the Lower House in the period of 57 years (from 1962 to 2019). During this period, no woman candidate was ever elected from 264 Parliamentary Constituencies in India! Many refer to the study on Violence Against Women in Politics (VAWP), jointly carried out by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (also known as UN Women) and the Centre for Social Research in the past, in order to explain the mentality in case of not electing women candidates. Around 53% of those surveyed were of the opinion that a woman’s family would decide whether or not she would join Politics. Another 77% used to believe that women candidates were not Politically Educated and they did not have the necessary Public Relations Skills! Hence, the father or the husband of a female MP has to perform the relevant duties from behind the scenes (proxy position). “In the case of women-dominated Indian provinces, it has often been observed that women are much more sensitive in understanding the demands of the common man, including education, health, and the improvement of infrastructure,” stated Shilpa Sau, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata.

Women’s representation in Indian Politics

Interestingly, Researchers, on the basis of statistics, have claimed that only 49 out of a total of 284 women candidates, contesting the 1999 Parliamentary Elections, managed to register victory. The number of elected women candidates was 45 (out of 355) and 59 (out of 556) in 2004 and 2009, respectively. “The number of women candidates elected to the Lower House of the Indian Parliament was 61 in 2014. As 49% of the total population of India is women, the number of elected women MPs was negligible,” said a researcher.

According to senior Indian Parliamentarian Sukhendusekhar Roy, Gender Inequality is a kind of fundamentalist practice. “We have to eradicate this practice not only by fielding women candidates during elections, but also through social movements. This will take time,” he said. However, the parliamentarian has no idea how long will it take to bring equality to women’s participation in men-dominated Indian Politics

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