Women in Politics: Editorial Analysis by Raj Malhotra’s IAS
Democratic governance is based on the underlying principle of inclusivity and representation for all. This makes democracy the best form of governance. The system of democratic governance in India is relatively new and is very well spelt out in the Indian Constitution, which is representative of every diverse voice within the system. But it has not yet fully realised the potential of almost half of the population i.e. women citizens of our country.
Women’s representation in parliament was only 3 per cent at the eve of independence, and 70 years later, this figure has risen to just 12 per cent.
- Beginning with villages at the micro level, men have always used women as proxies to control and retain power.
- Systemic, structural constraints have made it almost impossible for women to occupy equal space for dialogue in the political system despite their having the political agency and will to participate.
- Patriarchy lies at the very centre of these institutions, and patriarchal structures cut across caste lines.
- Political parties have in fact become major drivers of patriarchal norms. Political parties like to ensure that women do not have their own political agency.
- The fact that the longest pending bill in the history of Indian democracy is the Women’s Reservation Bill is testament to the fact that systemic and structural constraints have proved to be the biggest impediments to greater involvement of women in Indian politics.
- Another dimension of the disproportionate representation of women in Indian politics has been the lack of access to finance and funds.
Positive trends –
- Increase in the percentage of women voting in the elections is a direct manifestation of their growing political aspirations.
- There is evidence to suggest that a higher representation of women in Indian politics can significantly change the nature of power and provide unique solutions to domestic political and policy problems.
- India has about 13,00,000 women in politics at the grassroots, giving way to increased participation of younger women. Literacy is often considered to be a big factor in enhancing this participation.
- Contrary to popular belief, many illiterate women have proved to be remarkably good panchayat presidents (pradhans) while some fairly literate women have done a dismal job in assuming leadership roles.
Way forward –
Despite the obstacles, with increasing access to education, Internet, phones and growing urbanisation, the woman’s vote has come to be valued. However, the absence of men from dialogues on women’s empowerment has been a major impediment in achieving concrete progress. Unless men are also persuaded to join the dialogue, achieving political equity between men and women will remain a distant dream.
Women in Indian politics have not got their full due yet. Examine the recent trends and suggest a way forward.