Women Representation in Parliament


    In News

    • Recently, for the first time in New Zealand’s history, a majority of lawmakers are women making the total count to 60 women and 59 men.

    About the recent news 

    • The milestone places New Zealand among a half-dozen nations in the world that this year can claim at least 50% female representation in their parliaments, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
      • Other nations include Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates.
    • Globally, about 26% of lawmakers are women
    • New Zealand has a history of strong female representation.
      • In 1893, it became the first nation to allow women to vote.
      • New Zealand did not allow women to become members of parliament till 1919.
        • The first woman to become MP in New Zealand was Elizabeth McCombs in 1933.

    Indian Scenario

    • Women comprised only 4.4% of the first Lok Sabha, constituted in 1952, which was risen to merely 12.15% after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections
    • Seats are not reserved for females and males in Indian Parliament.
      • Total number of women in the present Lok Sabha is 78.
      • Total number of women in the present Rajya Sabha is 24.
    • According to an Inter-Parliamentary Union study, India ranks 149th out of 193 countries in terms of female representation in the lower or single house of Parliament. 
      • It is inexcusable that in a country where women account for half of the population, they have an abysmally low 14% representation in the Lok Sabha and 11% in the Rajya Sabha. 
    • When compared to our neighbours in the Gender Gap Report 2022, Bangladesh ranks 71st, China 102nd and Sri Lanka 111th. 
      • Pakistan (145th) and Afghanistan (146th) are among only 11 countries which rank worse than India (135th). 

    Reasons for low Participation of Women in Parliament

    • Illiteracy
      • It is one of the main hurdles in making women politically empowered. Women candidates have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates
    • Gender Disparities
      • Gender inequalities in terms of education, ownership of resources and continual biased attitudes still act as barriers for women leaders.
    • Lack of confidence and finance
      • They were the other major deterring factors that prevented women from entering politics.
    • Societal and cultural norms
      • They are imposed on women to bar them from entering politics. They have to accept the dictates imposed on them and bear the burden of society.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    Way forward/ Suggestions 

    • 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts 
      • Studies have shown that the gender quota introduced in local administration through the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts has increased the presence of women and enabled them to enter mainstream politics.
    • Fundamental Rights
      • We should fulfil our obligation to ensure equality as guaranteed by Article 14 of the Constitution, which establishes the right to equality as a fundamental right. 
      • Article 46 imposes a duty on the state to protect weaker sections from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
    • The Women’s Reservation Bill (2008) (108th amendment) has also been introduced in the national Parliament to reserve 33 per cent of the Lok Sabha seats for women.
      • We cannot achieve social development with equity and justice without equal representation of women in Parliament, which is why the Women’s Reservation Bill is the need of the hour. 
    • India is a signatory to the Convention for Elimination of Discrimination against Women
      • It 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. 
    • Status of Nordic countries 
      • When one looks at the Nordic countries with the most female parliamentarians, it is clear that their national policies are more inclusive and gender-sensitive as female politicians are more likely to prioritise gender equality, safety and security, elderly care, children’s welfare, women’s health care issues.
    • Empowerment and decision making
      • Equal representation of women in legislation can significantly improve the quality of decision-making and empower both women and the nation.

    Source: IE