By Yash Shukla
As far as representation of women in Indiaís lower house Lok Sabha is concerned, India ranks 149 in the list of 193 countries with having only 11.8 percent women in the lower house. These shameful statistics do not behove a nation which had produced a woman Prime Minister in 1965 when Indira Gandhi was one of the very few women leaders of democracies in the world.
Women in politics
The BJP government is enthusiastically and cheerfully campaigning for women rights in the form of its opposition to evil practices like instantaneous triple talaq or policies like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.†It seems pertinent to look into the matter through the prism of representation of women in Politics. One could look at these policies in conjunction with the representation of women in parliament to understand the insight of male political leaders and know if they also want to share power with women. The efficacy of amendment 73rd and 74th†had made 33 percent seats in all the local bodies reserved for women. The average representation of women in the world is around 22 percent, which in India is 11 percent. Countries like Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Afghanistan have a better representation of women in politics than India.
Broken glass ceiling or an illusion
The first and foremost argument propositioned by the people who believe female representation in India to be just is the example of Indiaís first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. However, if she had not been Pt. Nehruís daughter, looking back, her chances of becoming the Prime Minister, on her own, would have been slim. Same might be true for†Sonia Gandhi. Some people are of the opinion that she was the de-facto leader of the country between 2004 and 2014 rendering PM Manmohan Singh a rubber stamp. Another set of people include former women Chief ministers like J Jayalalitha and Mayawati. Some believe that had Jayalalitha not been a film star and supported by her mentor and former CM Tamil Nadu MGR, then perhaps she would not have become the Chief Minister. Similar is the case with Mayawati who was constantly supported and ushered by her mentor and BSP founder Kanshi Ram.
Taking into consideration the above examples, one could convincingly say that in the world of politics, it is a herculean task for a woman politician to raise from the ground level.†One should appreciate and concede to the fact that these women leaders were to some extent able to break the glass ceiling. Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee rose from the ground level and reached up to the pinnacle. †
Women in local bodies
1993 was a watershed moment for women in Indian politics when 33 percent seats were reserved across all the local bodies of the country for women leaders. It gave women an opportunity to come out of their houses and lead their block or municipality. Here also the results have been mixed. It is true that it has made politics accessible for women but there is an inherent problem in this system. It has been found that husbands of these women leaders fulfil all the responsibilities in their wivesí place by taking part in rallies and attending meetings. Apart from signing on the documents, women have hardly been given an opportunity to function on their own. It has also been found that tickets for contesting from these reserved seats are only given to the women whose husband or male relatives happened to be in politics. Instead of giving an opportunity to new women, tickets are distributed to the wives, daughters, daughter-in-law of the already established male leaders. There is a dire need to reform the system to disallow men from doing the work of their wives. Also, parties need to consciously select and give tickets to the women who had no pre-existing connection with politics and have emerged on their own.
Representation at the national level
The BJP government has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha which was not the case with the UPA government. It had been dependent on small and regional parties like the Samajwadi party which was opposed to the reservation of women in parliament. The BJP has no such compulsion. With the support of the Congress party in Rajya Sabha and its brute majority in the lower house, the BJP and Prime Minister Modi have a unique opportunity to pass the legislation. Instead of flogging the dead horse in its opposition to Triple Talaq and making it a cognizable offence with four years imprisonment, the BJP had better pass the legislation which would surely be a big step in giving equal opportunities to women in the arena of politics.
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