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Topic : Women in Lok Sabha

GS-1 Mains  : Women

Revision Notes

  • The recent Lok Sabha elections saw 74 women MPs win seats, marking a slight decline from the 78 elected in 2019.
  • While this number represents a 52-seat increase compared to India’s first elections in 1952, it translates to only 13.63% of the Lower House – a far cry from the proposed 33% reservation for women after the next delimitation exercise.

A Slow but Uneven Rise

  • India’s Lok Sabha has witnessed a gradual increase in women’s representation, albeit with some setbacks.
  • From a mere 4.41% in 1952, the number rose to over 6% a decade later, only to dip below 4% in 1971.
  • Since then, there’s been a slow, steady climb, crossing the 10% mark in 2009 and peaking at 14.36% in 2019.

Global Lag

The current scenario places India behind the global average of 26% women legislators, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Countries like New Zealand stand out with a majority of female representatives, while South Africa (46%), the UK (35%), and the US (29%) boast significantly higher proportions compared to India.

Roadblocks to Women’s Participation

Several factors contribute to the low representation of women in Indian politics:

  • Literacy Gap: The national female literacy rate (65%) falls short of the male literacy rate (82%), making it harder for women to enter politics.
  • Lack of Political Will: The repeated defeat of the Women’s Reservation Bill, proposing one-third of seats for women, reflects a lack of political commitment to addressing this issue.
  • Masking of Identity: While many women contest elections (206 in 2019), few win. This highlights the dominance of political parties and family backgrounds in determining success. Women’s political identities often get overshadowed by party affiliation and family connections.
  • Patriarchal System: Despite numerical superiority, women’s decision-making power remains limited. Male spouses or family members often exert undue influence, as seen in the functioning of Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • Gender Disparities: Education, resource ownership, and societal attitudes continue to disadvantage women.
  • Confidence and Financial Constraints: Low confidence and lack of financial resources further impede women’s political aspirations.
  • Unequal Division of Labor: The burden of domestic chores and childcare disproportionately falls on women, limiting their time and energy for political pursuits.
  • Slander and Abuse: The fear of physical and verbal abuse during campaigns deters many women from entering politics.

Why Women’s Participation in Politics Matters

Women’s participation in politics is crucial for a healthy democracy. Here’s why:

  • Stronger Representation: When women are lawmakers, they ensure that policies address the needs and concerns of all citizens, not just men. This leads to more equitable and inclusive legislation.
  • Diversity of Thought: Women bring different perspectives and experiences to the table, leading to richer discussions and more comprehensive solutions. They can challenge the status quo and advocate for issues often overlooked.
  • Empowerment and Inspiration: Seeing women in positions of power inspires and motivates other women and girls to pursue their own political ambitions. It breaks down stereotypes and demonstrates that leadership roles are attainable.
  • Equality for All: Gender equality demands equal representation. Women constitute half the population and deserve an equal voice in shaping the laws that govern society.

Bridging the Gap

India is actively working towards increasing women’s participation in politics:

  • National Commission for Women (NCW): This government body promotes women’s involvement in various spheres, including law-making. They organize consultations on women’s rights and assess the impact of policies that affect female representation in local governments.
  • National Human Rights Commission (NHRC): Their study on the UN Convention on Eliminating Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) helps policymakers and legislators understand its implications for India. This knowledge can be used to create laws that uphold gender equality.
  • Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (2023): This proposed law, also known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, seeks to reserve one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women. While awaiting approval, it represents a significant step towards greater female representation.
  • National Policy for Women Empowerment: This policy aims to empower women across various aspects of life. By promoting its goals, stakeholders can work together to create a more inclusive political landscape.

The Way Forward

To bridge the gender gap in political representation, a multi-pronged approach is needed:

  • Empowering Women: Investing in girls’ education, promoting financial independence, and raising awareness about women’s rights are crucial for long-term change.
  • Stronger Political Backing: Political parties must actively support women candidates through financial assistance, training programs, and dedicated campaign strategies.
  • Legislative Reforms: The passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill would provide a significant boost to women’s participation in the political sphere.
  • Shifting Social Attitudes: Combating gender bias and promoting a culture that values women’s leadership in all sectors of society is essential.

By addressing these challenges and fostering an enabling environment, India can move towards a more inclusive and representative democracy.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/elections/74-women-elected-to-lok-sabha-lower-than-2019-9374726/


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