“ROLE OF WOMEN AS LAW MAKERS”
Dr. K. UDAYASREE
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar College of Law
Email ID: [email protected]
In the ancient days the women were respected as mother Goddess. The mother has priority and power over her family. All the Indian Puranas, Vedas, and Upanishads have given prominence to the women. Only a few ladies have enjoyed their power as law makers in the past. Rudrama Devi, Chand Bibi, Sultana Razia, Noorjahan, Jhansi Lakshmibai, Durgavathi and Rani Mallika were notable law makers. During the British period Mrs. Annibisent and others were elected to imperial legislative Assembly.
After enforcement of the Constitution of India, fundamental Rights are conferred upon all the people without having discrimination on the basis of cast, colour, creed and sex. Right from the first Lok Sabha women have entered the Parliament and participated in law making. Mrs. Indira Gandhi was a remarkable leader of this country. Several women Parliamentarians have participated in the law making by following the footsteps of the late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi. The great women Parliamentarians have shown their impact on Indian democracy and the politics. `Mrs. Sushma Swaraj has one the best Parliamentarian award. The women chief ministerial candidates like late Jayalalita and Mss. Mamata Benerjee, Mrs. Mayavathi are the stalwarts of the Indian politics. The Indian women folk are fighting for the 33% reservation in the parliament and legislatures for last 20 years. But the bill is pending before the Parliament. However the women are successful in getting 50% reservations in the local bodies. Most of the women are successful as speakers of the legislative bodies. Mrs. Meera Kumar and Sumitra Mahajan have been proved efficient speakers to conduct the proceedings of Lok Sabha. Mrs. Nazma Hebtullah was proved to be a best person to act as deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Hundreds of women are elected to state legislatures. All these issues are highlighted in my full text paper.
ROLE OF WOMEN AS LAW MAKERS
OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY:
The researcher has conducted this study with clear cut ideas in her mind on the role played by the women as law maker right from the ancient days.
- To focus on the women activities as law maker in annuls of history.
- To focus on the role of women law makers during the freedom struggle.
- To focus on the participation of women in democratic process.
- To lay emphasis on the women’s political activities who are elected to the Parliament in 20th and early days of 21st
The researcher has collected material available in different libraries. The researcher has attended several conclaves, workshops and seminars to get needful information to accomplish her task. The researcher is very much interested to know and solve the problems being faced by the women of contemporary times.
Generally the Indian women are energetic, skillful and patriotic. They are eager to participate in the process of the governance from the early days. The modern women are equally enthusiastic to participate in the democratic process of the country. On the basis of above mentioned tentative conclusion present study has been made by the researcher.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY:
Indian women and her role in the society has been main concern of the day. Topics related to women are new to all the coming generations in future till the position accorded to her has been changed in all fields.
THEME OF THE PAPER:
Indian women have secured honourable position right from the ancient days. Ramayana directly indicates that Yajnas and yagas could not be completed and achieve their ends without the presence of wife or female relatives. That kind of status has been accorded to Indian women. Even in the assemblies they had assisted the kings in the deliberations. Women were consulted by the rulers in the construction of temples and sacred buildings. But with the extent of Muslim rule the position of women was deteriorated. After the emergence of British, they have introduced reforms to revitalize the position of women. After the enforcement of the constitution of India the government has taken steps for the alround development of women under the directive principles of state policy.
According to M.K. Gandhi “Women are a great power in society, but if they misuse their power, it can shatter to bits the whole fabric of society”. The emergence of Indian women into active political life since Independence is a result of their partnership in revolution that gained India her freedom in 1947. The freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru have felt that women and men should work together to avoid discrimination which would make India a prosperous country. To many outsiders the fact that women who were supposed to be “suppressed backward or illiterate” could become leaders of people and comprehend all the subtleties of democratic parliamentary life was clearly puzzling. Yet no aspect of women’s capacity to rise to full stature as a human being came out more clearly than in politics. The Indian politics have proved that the women are not so strong to take decisions to strengthen the society. The women are in general dependent upon their parents or the husbands for their survival which push them back in the development.
Here the support impliedly indicates that the support given by family to the women to participate in the political process. Political process simply denotes that the women’s participation in the democratic process. The democracy has relied upon the electoral process and the public opinion. The democratic process would be successful with the women’s participation. First of all right to vote has been conferred upon women after the First World War by most of the countries. It is customary to assess the status of woman on the basis of her ability to exercise her franchise. The electoral process went through various phases in India in accordance with her history, which culminated into women’s full democratic participation as citizens with the grant of Universal Adult Franchise in the Constitution of 1950. There are so many other factors involved such as the power of women in decision-making in the home common to all Asian societies. Indian women proved they could seize all conceivable opportunity and long before women in countries like France, U.S.A. or England rose to high office there was a chief Minister, Sucheta Kripalani in Uttar Pradesh. Lakshmi Menon and Violet Alva in Parliament, a Governor, Sarojini Naidu apart from the famous Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit. Indian provinces now called states are of enormous size like Uttar Pradesh is the largest and probably the most contentious of them, yet Sucheta handled its tortured politics with skill and firmness many men would have envied. Sucheta was always filled with compassion. Unknown even to her close associates she solved the problem of countless poor people finding them jobs and healing the sick in a clinic she started in slums and other poverty areas. Even after a severe heart-attack she campaigned for her party the Old Congress, dying in 1974 after a life of outstanding accomplishment.
All Indian National Congress is established in 1885. After thirty two years of its establishment the congress has elected a woman candidate as its President. Mrs. Annie Besant was elected as President of Congress who has presided over the Annual Congress session of Calcutta in 1917. By that time the women should possess high qualities and qualifications for the election of President of a party or a member to the elective bodies. Mrs. Annie Besant has stressed that the same rules should be applicable for the men who are to seek elections. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu has been elected as second woman President of Indian National Congress in 1925. At the end of the third Round Table Conference the then British Prime Minster Mr. Ramsay, M.C. Donald has announced Communal Award in which the political reservations for women have been provided. Only the congress has strived for the development of women during the days of independence. Other parties have also tried to follow the path shown by the congress.
It was not until 1926 that women got elected to Legislative Councils in the provinces of the then British India. In Madras the first woman to gain elective office was Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, who was not only the first woman doctor to graduate from the Madras University but also the first Vice-President of the Madras Legislature. The Women’s Indian Association had been very active during those early years, and had also put up two candidates. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya who became a veteran socialist leader in course of time and was responsible too for the revival of India’s ancient handicrafts and Mrs. Hannen Angelo. In 1921 since the battle for women’s rights had been concentrated in certain States, the Madras Legislative Council had passed a resolution calling for the registration of women on the electoral rolls, Annie Besant, Margaret Cousins two English women who identified themselves wholly with the emancipation of women in India Dhanwanthi Rama Rao, the later champion and world authority on Family planning Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy, T. Sadasiva Iyer and Dorothy Jinarajadasa were actively behind these developments.
But prior to that the Sarojini Naidu a poetess and right hand woman to Mahatma Gandhi throughout the freedom struggle had led a fourteen women-strong deputation to Mr. Montagu and to Lord Chelmsford the Viceroy to demand self-Government, women’s suffrage, education and medical colleges for girls. Montagu was also asked by four members of the Senate of the Indian Women’s University for an interview from the “women of India” two of whom were Margaret Cousins and Ramanbai M. Nilkantha. It is obvious that a great deal of the initial feminist movement has started in Madras and spread gradually to the other part of India. The early Home Rule league had branches in other parts of India Women’s organizations started initially to bring education to girls inevitable moved on to the field of legislation and to social reform of all kinds and then to politics. But on the whole, these early movements were free of partisan elements. In the mid 30s the progress of women in the politics was rapid. A number of women have tried their luck in the elections. Awareness and enthusiasm have been mounted among the women to participate in the political process. In the 1936 elections which took place in provinces of India but not in 603 princely States. Anusuyabai Kale was elected Deputy Speaker in the Central Provinces, Siphai Malani, Deputy Speaker in the Sind Assembly, Rukmini Lakshmipathi became a Minister in the Madras Cabinet in 1937, Jyoti Venkatachakan in Rajagopalachari’s Cabinet in 1937, while the first woman to serve in any Cabinet was Vijayalakshmi Pandit in U.P. with the portfolio of local, Self-Government and Public Health. In the Central Assembly. Renuka Ray who was later Minister of Rehabiliation in Bengal. Radhabai Subbarayon, a member of one of the Round Table Conferences and Ammu Swaminathan who along with her other colleagues was elected to Parliament in the 1952 First General Elections after independence, played an active part.
The women have played a notable role in the constituent assembly after the partition of India. Mrs. Sarojini Naidu and some others have been elected as members to the constituent assembly. The Constituent Assembly set up in October 1946, a body elected by the existing Legistlatures, had among its members Sarojini Naidu, Durgabai, Renuka Ray and Hansa Mehta among others, to frame the Constitution for India on Independence. Barely a year later Independence came at mid-night on August 15th with wild rejoicing. India was free. But ugly riots and broken out all over the country. Brother killed brother because one was a Muslim and the other a Hindu. The tragic streams of refugees started. Gandhi was at Noakhali in East Bengal in the heart of the carnage with Sucheta Kripalani by his side. In the North, Mridula Sarabhai with singular courage went into camps to rescue abducted women, and Ramashwari, Nehru, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya, Kitty Shiva Rao, Achamma Mathi and many others worked round the clock on the pitiless task of rehabilitation. It was evident at that time that no one was thinking in terms of men’s or women’s status. There was a gigantic task to tackle. No one really had administrative experience, but a deep spirit of responsibility for the lot of our people motivated hundreds of women, many of them modest, orthodox and often unused to public life. In a remarkably short period refugee camps were organized for some eight million people who had lost their homes. From India over three million people migrated the other way. It was one of the pathetic migrations inhuman history, an uprooting in all cases from the ancient and settled soil.
It was this period of India’s history with the four previous decades of the struggle for freedom that established woman’s rights of equality with men. Embodied in India’s Constitution its Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy are clear declaration of a just, equal and human society. Article 325 of the Constitution, also makes plain that no special electoral rolls on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex could be entertained and Article 326 emphasis that elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States were to be on the basis of adult suffrage. The election commission of India has provided equal opportunity for all the people to participate in the elections approving their political rights. The rights are enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India. The government of India and the state governments are directed to provide equal opportunities without having any discrimination on the basis of colour, creed, caste and sex. The same principles have been enshrined in the directive principles of state policy of the Part IV of Indian Constitution. The work of Margaret Cousins, Kamladevi Chattopadhyaya and of the far-seeing women forty years earlier had certainly born fruit. Montague who in 1917 had dismissed the women’s delegation as a minor diversion in the serious business of controlling a turbulent India, must have turned in his grave. In his England men of his time generally though women’s demands wholly frivolous.
But in case of India the political activities and election process are different. In the initial dates the Indian political scene has witnessed the single party domination. The congress party seems to become one member party since the days of Mrs. Indira Gandhi a strong women administrator. Speaking on, about the opposition during the rule of Congress, no strong opposition party is not found to criticize the government on it’s failure. The ruling party though the dominated by Mrs. Indira Gandhi for nearly 17 years, awareness could not be created among the minds of women to take part in the Deomcratic process. But to return to the more innocent early years in 1952, women campaigned their huge constituencies like their male counterparts…….. every member being theoretically responsible to about one million citizens. By car, jeep, train, camel, bullock cart or on foot, candidates stamped the country. Twenty-three women were elected to the House of the People, the Lok Sabha out of 489 seats. In the State Legislatures out of 3,641 elected 98 were women. There was an interesting map prepared for the Prime Minister’s election tours in 1952 which shows what terrain had to be covered by the leader of the party in power and the miles he covered. This had special significance in this study; the Prime Minister since 1967 elections has been Indira Gandhi.
In the first General Elections three women came into prominence as parliamentarians. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was the first Cabinet Minister with the Health Portfolio the Deputy Minister was Margatham Chandrasekhar who was one of the Congress Party Secretaries. Not many women over the years played a role in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Secretariats or as Speakers and Deputy Speaker though they features as alternates in the lists of the latter. Lakshmi Menon, however, was made a parliamentary secretary for the first five years of Parliament’s life and subsequently remained as Deputy Ministry for External Affairs under Jawaharlal Nehru who was also Foreign Minister, till 1967.
Sixteen general elections have been conducted till 2014. In the 1967 fourth General Elections political interest had gained ground even in very remote areas. The euphoria of the immediate post-Independence period forced women to play a harder more nature game, as political parties began to assess their choice of candidates less romantically and with a hardnosed insistence upon the likelihood of their nominee winning. Incredible as it may be 107 political parties and 26 unrecognised parties are listed for the different General Elections up to 1967, some of them Independents with a scant following. There have been eight major National parties as listed in the Report of the Fourth General Elections, 1967 by the Election Commission. While the State level parties have an impact upon only the local State Government of which the State of Tamilnadu is a case in point, it is mostly the action and interaction of the major national organizations that sweep the polls. The course of political events in India since Independence has led to party reverses, loss of States to the party in power, and the establishment of President’s Rule in others, leading to mid-term elections in that State as in Uttar Pradesh after 1967, or in Gujarat recently.
First Five General Elections have shown that despite problems of party nomination the unwillingness of husbands, or families to allow woman to enter a field of action which may be marked by crudity and violence, with often extraordinary demands made upon their health and strength, let alone the monetary resources needed to fight an election, they have maintained a fairly even position year after year, 1962 was perhaps the best year with six women members in the Centre as Ministers of State or Deputy Ministers whose names and designations for all election years are listed. Twenty one Ministers or Deputy Ministers in State Governments, 34 elected to the Lok Sabha and 12 to the Rajya Sabha; out of the 12 nominated members, none were women instead all were returned through the voting in the State Legislative Assemblies by the normal process of returning members to the Upper House in Delhi. It was in that year also that Violet Alva served as Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Ssabha. The later part of 20th century has shown some improvement in the number of female members of the parliament. Upto 2009 forty to 50 members are elected to Lok Sabha. Mrs. Meera Kumar has served as Lok Sabha Speaker. Similarly Mrs. Rekha, Mrs. Hemamalini are nominated as Rajya Members. Mrs. Najma Heptullah has served as Deputy Chairperson in the first decade of 21st century. Similarly Mrs. Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan, Mrs. Anandi Ben Patel of Gujarat, Jayalalitha of Tamilnadu and Miss Mamata Benarji are serving as Chief Ministers of their respective states. The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) Government has ordered the companies to enlist atleast one woman as director. In this way the women are finding a respectable place in politics and in the field of commerce.
The women are being elevated to high positions from the last decades of 20th century. But the participation of women the democratic process at grass-root level should be strengthened. The women participation is very low in the elections of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI) right from 1960 to 1990. With a view to strengthen the Panchayat Raj Institutions 73rd Amendment Act has been passed by the union parliament. The 73rd amendment has changed the composition and financial position of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs).
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A.A. Rao Politics in India from 2010, Lucknow University Press, 1978.
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