Women in Politics: Assessment of Women’s Participation in Indian Political Framework

Politics has been unreceptive and even hostile towards women who wish to be under the circle of political happenings worldwide.

Participation in political discourse allows people to be an integral part of decision-making, policy formation, and action. Unfortunately, women’s involvement, specifically in this political pursuit, has been limited but at the same time carries immense importance in terms of equal representation, gender equality, and upliftment of society as a whole.

It is stated that women’s political participation results in substantial improvements in democratic nations. Few instances of this progress include:

  • Greater sensitivity towards the needs of citizens.
  • Amplified collaboration across party as well as ethnic contours.
  • Better steps towards a sustainable future.

Such participation of women results in comprehensive policy priorities, emphasizing the quality of life, family health and well-being, and socio-economic policies for women, children, and the marginalized. Moreover, it encourages citizens, especially young women, to confidently and actively participate in political discourses (Adler, 2018). 

However, it is stated that politics has been unreceptive and even hostile towards women who wish to be under the circle of political happenings worldwide. Although the number of women voters has improved remarkably, political participation in all tiers of representation and vesting of authority and power has been disheartening and low (Pandit, 2010).

In India, factors of multi-cultural and socio-political circumstances such as caste, patriarchy as a traditional norm, and class differentiations have further accelerated gender-based inequality, especially in political representation, economic upliftment, and social development. Hence, women remain deprived, side-lined, and dismissed in society.

Steps for enhancement have taken place since independence to enhance and rectify these situations through constitutional amendments. One such step is the formulation of the Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act and the Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act in India, which organized and legitimized local self-governance at rural and urban levels of the society and has created a remarkable opportunity for women to perform in the arena of politics at the grassroots level.

The Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act assigned that one-third of the village government’s head positions in the country should be reserved for women. This amendment was introduced to encourage the political representation of women at the local political platforms. A majority of research has shown a remarkable impact, signifying an upsurge in the number of women elected as village heads (Duflo, 2005).

The Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act also introduced reservations for women in municipal councils and corporations in towns and urban areas. This reservation is executed through a rotation process by recognizing various regions as reserved constituencies for each election period (Tokekar, 2017).

Many scholars have stated few constructive examples of reservations in Panchayati Raj and Urban Municipal institutions (Pandit, 2010, p. 1141).

Reservations of seats for women have broadened their knowledge and insight into functioning, restrictions, and possibilities in politics and concerning policies. It has also encouraged empowerment amongst women and helped them to redefine their identity. Moreover, instead of their male counterparts with a different outlook, women have brought in ethics of cooperation and mutual promotion of interests.

Additionally, issues concerned with people’s everyday lives have taken center stage in terms of significance and responsibilities. Women have made an effort to shift the focus of local bodies to confront problems related to the scarcity of water, education and knowledge-building, liquor consumption, establishment of quality health, and others. These constitutional amendments have provided a bottom-up approach to governance. They have also amplified issues and policy initiatives on female literacy, abolition of dowry system and domestic violence, elimination of female feticides, and promotion of female workforce participation in secured and safe environments (Prabhakaran, 2019).

Although there has been quantitative progress after the amendments, Indian society also demands a qualitative change in women’s active participation and empowerment. It is essential to remove the roadblocks which are the basis of socio-political inequalities.

Problems that hinder the appropriate functioning of the amendments and reservation of seats in local governance bodies include male proxy candidates in the elected female representatives, especially in Panchayati Raj Institutions. It has been found that a significant number of women merely act as rubber-stamps in these local institutions. (Ghosh, Chakravarti & Mansi, 2015).

Furthermore, the problem associated with illiteracy and discrimination based on gender remains. Other issues include maintenance of a balance between their work-life and family obligations due to the orthodox and patriarchal outlook of the society, lack of a proper mechanism in providing daily wages for agricultural labor, limited training and capacity building of women electives, gender-based violence arising out of the conflict between women and communities who do not allow the emancipation of women in any aspect of their lives, and absence of economic, financial, as well as administrative support from bureaucracy and authorities at the state and center (Pandit, 2010).

It must also be noted that women’s representation in higher offices remains low. In particular, the expression of women at the state level has lagged significantly behind. There are 79 women Members of the Parliament in Lok Sabha (House of the People) out of 543 members (Parliament of India LOK SABHA HOUSE OF THE PEOPLE, n.d.). The proposed Women’s Reservations Bill of 2008, also known as the 108th Amendment Bill, remains pending. This bill anticipates one-third reservation of seats for women in the Lower House of the People state legislative assemblies (PRS Legislative Research, n.d.).

Political will and consciousness are needed to provide possible resolutions through exclusive governance and policy initiatives. In these contemporary times, suitable measures are needed for effective women’s empowerment in politics.

REFERENCES

Adler, A. (2018, March 1). Why Women in Politics? Women Deliver. https://womendeliver.org/2018/why-women-in-politics/

Duflo, E. (2005), “Why Political Reservations,” Journal of the European Economic Association, 3(2-3): 668-678

Ghosh, R., Chakravarti, P., & Mansi, K. (2015). Women’s empowerment and education: Panchayats and women’s Self-help Groups in India. Policy Futures in Education, 13(3),294–314. https://doi.org/10.1177/1478210315571214

Pandit, L. (2010). POLITICAL LEADERSHIP OF WOMEN: CONSTRAINTS AND CHALLENGES. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 71(4), 1139-1148

Parliament of India LOK SABHA HOUSE OF THE PEOPLE. (n.d.). Women Members in 17th Lok Sabha. Loksabhaph.Nic. In. http://loksabhaph.nic.in/Members/Statewiselist_w.aspx

PRS Legislative Research. (n.d.). Women’s Reservation Bill [The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008]. Retrieved July 6, 2021, from https://prsindia.org/billtrack/womens-reservation-bill-the-constitution-108th-amendment-bill-2008-45

Tokekar, P. (2017). 74th Constitutional Amendment and its Impact on Women’s Empowerment. The Urban World Quarterly Publication of the Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies of All India Institute of Local Self-Government, Mumbai, 10(1), 8–16. https://vpmthane.org/jbcapp/upload/m6/10.pdf

Moumita Barman is currently pursuing her Master's degree from TISS, Hyderabad in the field of Public Policy and Governance. Her research interests lie in Gender, Social Conflict, Caste in India, and Education.

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