India’s 17th general elections are currently underway. Will this Lok Sabha election witness a positive change in the women representation in the parliament? Well, that needs to be pondered over. If the stats are anything to go by, achieving a decent number in the parliament appears to be elusive to the country’s women given the available data.
India is the world’s second most populous country; but, it lags behind its neighbouring countries in terms of women representatives at the echelons of the political system of the country. While every party equivocally endorses the need for more number of women in the lower house, the stark reality is India was ranked 143rd position among 193 nations in the year 2018 on the percentage of women in the parliament. The data was released by Inter-Parliamentary Union, a global organisation of national parliaments.
Incremental change in decades
Way back in the year 1952, women representation stood at one woman MP for approximately eight million women in India. Over the years, the number has risen but not as much as it was expected. In the 16th Lok Sabha in the year 2014, there was only an incremental change with their percentage increasing to 12.6% only. However, by 2014, the women population in India constituted about 48.5%. One of the smallest countries in the African mainland – Rwanda, currently ranks first in the world with 49 MPs among the 80 seats in its lower house. In India, where the sex ratio is 933 females per 1000 males there is a crucial need for proportionate representation by women in politics.
Do women fare better?
Since, the formation of independent India, no political party has made constructive efforts to bring in a structural change in the parliament to increase women representation. In the year 2008, the Congress-led UPA government brought in the Women’s Reservation Bill seeking 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha and the state assemblies. However, due to lack of agreement among the other political parties in the Lok Sabha, despite being passed in the Rajya Sabha, the bill lapsed after the House was dissolved.
According to a study conducted by the World Institute for Development Economics Research, the increased participation of women in politics is likely to have a positive effect on the country. It elaborates on various aspects where women have fared better than their male counterparts. For instance, women representatives are likely to have less criminal charges against them than male candidates. Additionally, female candidates are outstanding when canvassing in their constituencies. It has been noted that road-related projects are followed up to their completion successfully under the leadership of female candidates.
Also, matters related to socio-economic rights of citizens such as the right to education, improved healthcare, housing needs, better standard of living are efficiently represented by women candidates who bring in a whole new approach when they come to power. It’s time as citizens we create a conducive environment to the female population to take active participation in politics.
Citizens should take the firm step
It’s been over 70 years since we got our independence. And, every time there is an election around women have always been sidelined. With a handful of them in the past to relate to such as Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit, Indira Gandhi, or Jayalalitha to the current crop of dynamic women politicians such as Sushma Swaraj, Mamta Banerjee or Mayawati, the road ahead appears to be obscure for aspiring female representatives. Its time citizens take it as their responsibility demanding the reintroduction of the bill and ensure its passage; only then we’ll be able to see parity in gender representation in politics.