Women in Politics in India

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    In News

    • Recently, a study named, ‘Performance of Women in Parliament: A Quantitative Study of Questions by Women Members in Lok Sabha (1999-2019)’ was released. 
      • It is authored by Sadia Hussain.

    Study highlights

    • About:
      • The study draws attention to women’s performance in the Lok Sabha through a quantitative analysis of the questions posed by women leaders on the floor. 
      • It claims that they act as mere token representation in political spheres.
    • Access to power:
      • India has not had a single women’s movement that challenged patriarchal and gender norms in the last two decades.
      • Women have had to use alternate methods to come to power. 
      • Education and wealth have aided women in political participation.
    • Political awareness:
      • Studies suggest that more women have started to organise themselves into economic groups, and financial freedom has pushed them to be more politically active. 
      • The decreased gap in voter turnout between men and women is a positive sign toward gender inclusivity in the political sphere.
    • Women in the legislature:
      • Comparative advantage:
        • 2019 general election was a historic moment for women’s politics.
        • It saw 78 women elected to the lower house of Parliament for the first time since independence where only 22 women were present in the 543-member Lok Sabha. 
      • But the author explains that this number is still not representative of the actual proportion of women in the country.
    • Performance of women in power:
      • Question Hour:
        • Women’s performance during the Question Hour session becomes relevant as it is a space where legislators act free from party regulation
        • Study contests claim that women members act as silent dolls or ‘gungi gudiyas’ during the Question Hour in Parliament.
      • Bright side:
        • Though men asked more questions and participated in more debates than women, there has been a substantial increase in the number of questions women asked.
        • Comparing the questions asked by the members:
          • Contrary to general belief, women representatives asked more questions on health and family welfare, human resource development, home affairs, finance, agriculture and railways than women’s issues
          • Male legislators asked more questions on issues concerning women than their female counterparts. 
        • Significance:
          • While women are expected to bring a feminine quality into the public political domain, they are breaking stereotypes by simply behaving like their male counterparts.

    Challenges

    • Politics as men’s profession:
      • Politics is often seen as a male bastion, and women are discouraged from entering it on the pretext that it is not a ‘feminine’ profession.
      • Female candidates were often made to contest in elections as “namesakes” for their husbands.
    • Infrastructural barriers:
      • Young women face severe infrastructural barriers to entering politics.
      • This includes a lack of clean toilets and safe accommodation during fieldwork. 
    • Slander and abuse: 
      • This is one of the main reasons that women stay away from contesting elections which they face during campaigns. 
      • The other reason cited is lack of safety.
    • Sexual division of labour: 
      • A system in which all work inside the home is either done by the women of the family or organised by them through the domestic helpers. 
      • It means that women spend far more time than men in the home- and child-care.

    Government initiatives & international commitments

    • The Women’s Reservation Bill(2008)(108th amendment):
      • The bill seeks to reserve 33% seats in Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies for women. 
      • The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in May 2008 and was referred to a standing committee. In 2010, it was passed in the House and transmitted finally to the Lok Sabha. However, the Bill lapsed with the 15th Lok Sabha.
    • Gender-neutral procedures and language:
      • In 2014, under the leadership of the then Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Rules of Procedure of the Lok Sabha were made entirely gender neutral
      • Since then, each Lok Sabha Committee Head has been referred to as Chairperson (not chairman) in all documents. 
        • This initiative is proof that amending legal documents to make them inclusive for all genders is an attainable goal if there is a will.
    • Convention for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women:
      • India is a signatory to the Convention for Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.
      • The convention obliges states to take appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life and, in particular, to ensure that women are as eligible as men to contest elections to all public bodies.
      • They have the right to participate in contributing to government policy and its implementation.
    • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:
      • Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is binding on signatory states including India
      • It says that “every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections.

    Way ahead

    • The problem of the under-representation of women is only superficial
    • What lies underneath is the problem of structural inequality, wherein women are marginalised at different levels.  
    • The increased political participation is a positive sign toward gender inclusivity and equality in the political sphere
    • But it has a long way to go, considering the socio-economic and cultural conditions that still socialise women into being averse to politics, hindering them from pursuing politics as a career.

     

    “2022 Global Gender Gap Index “review on Political Empowerment in India

    • The Global Gender Gap Index of WEF benchmarks the current state and evolution of gender parity across four key dimensions: 
      • Economic Participation and Opportunity, 
      • Educational Attainment, 
      • Health and Survival, and 
      • Political Empowerment.
    • The subindex “Political Empowerment” of the Global Gender Gap Index considers metrics such as: 
      • The percentage of women in Parliament, the percentage of women in ministerial positions etc. 
      • Of all the sub-indices, this is where India ranks the highest in 2022 (48th out of 146)
    • Moreover, India’s score on this metric has worsened since last year. 
    • The silver lining is that despite the reduction, India’s score is above the global average in this category.
    • Other countries:
      • Some of the best-ranking countries in this category score much better. 
      • For instance, Iceland is ranked 1 and Bangladesh is ranked 9.

    Source: TH