WOMEN IN GOVERNANCE AND POLICY MAKING
Smt. P. Mangamma, Lecturer in Mathematics,
Visakha Govt. Degree College (W), Visakhapatnam-20
Women are often dynamic leaders of change, galvanized women and men to get involved, claim their rights, strengthen their communities and protect their planet. Their participation is fundamental to democratic governance. Women make up 48.5% of India’s population. Yet, their presence in key decision making positions-be it governance, law enforcement or corporate leadership-is far from proportionate. A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be. Women in government in the modern era are generally underrepresented in most countries. Increasing women’s representation in the government can empower woman and is necessary to achieve gender party. The notion of women’s empowerment is rooted in the human capabilities approach.
Democracy implies equality for all human persons, men and women. As against this basic notion of democracy what is normally seen is that women are excluded from different walks of life, more visibly in Politics. In any political system, right from the developed to the developing countries, presence of women is very low compared to men. In many countries women had to wage long battles to get right to vote. Today the percentage of women as voters has increased considerably, but their political participation is not equal to men and therefore women are unable to get an equal share in organization that require decision making.
Political Participation – Definition:-
“Political participation has been defined in various ways. Political participation means not only exercising the right to vote, but also power sharing, co-decision making, policy making at all levels of governance of the state”.
Political Participation of Indian Women:-
Women in India participate in voting, run for public offices and political parties at lower levels more than men. Political activism and voting are the strongest areas of women’s political participation.
Not only that, women’s status differs according to region, caste, class and religion and also on considerations of tribal, rural and urban areas.” The status of a person is a great force in participating wholeheartedly in the developmental process. In the case of women, their inferior status relegated to them due to fundamentalism of tradition and religious beliefs blocked them from active participation in developmental process The 73rd Constitutional Amendment has added the following articles to the Constitution providing reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions. Article 243-(D) (2) states not less than 1/3 of the seats reserved under clause (1) shall be reserved for women belonging to S.C or as the case may be S.T. Article 325 and 326 guarantees political equality, equal right to participate in political activity and right to vote, respectively. While the latter has been accessed and enjoyed by large number of women, the right to equal participation is still a distant dream. The lack of space for participation in political bodies has resulted in their presence in meager numbers in this decision making bodies. A study conducted by UNESCO in Seven South East Asian countries indicates that in terms of awareness, party membership, contesting election, voting or deliberate abstention from voting and decision-making, women’s participation has not been impressive. The study noted that women remain in the periphery of power and influence. The low range of women’s political participation is due to:
- Low status in society.
- Lesser exposure to education.
- Very low economic status (2).
- The restraining cultural norms.
- The unhealthy political environment.
40 The transition from the roles of housewife and mother to the role of political decision maker is not easy and has not been frequently attempted. Political parties and other organizations should encourage women’s participation in politics and in the exercise of political responsibilities. The strategy should be to encourage a still greater number of women in decision – making power. In this background the demand for 33% reservation for women in legislature becomes important. The issue of women’s political empowerment came to the forefront of the global debate for women’s rights at the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women held at Beijing in 1995. (3) In this conference global community stressed the importance of women assuming position of power and influence, not only because their points of view and talents are needed, but also as a matter of their human rights. Moreover, increased involvement of women in decision making process with respect to social values, development directions and allocation of resources enables women as well as men to influence societal agendas and to help to set priorities. Women’s political participation has been the agenda of various international conferences and symposiums. Various recommendations were made to improve the participation of women in political decision making. Women’s political empowerment was at the center stage of all discourses on women’s issues at the international level. India is in no way an exception from the rest of the countries with respect to the women representation.
To combat gender inequality in politics, the Indian Government has instituted reservations for seats in local governments. India ranks 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament. Women’s participation in political parties remained low in the 1990s with 10-12% membership consisting of women. The sex ratio of voters has improved from 715 female voters for every 1,000 male voters in the 1960s to 883 female voters in the 2000s. Gender inequality has remained the focus of the women’s movement with specific emphasis on issues such as the Uniform Civil Code, Women’s Reservation Bill, and sexual violence against women. Women’s organizations in India address a variety of issues from the environment, poverty, empowerment, and violence against women. One of the most prominent women’s organizations in India is the AIWC, which was established in 1927, focusing on empowering and educating Indian women. Since the Indian independence, women’s organizations have focused on issues of violence towards women. Women’s movements have focused on rape, female mortality rates, female feticide, dowry deaths, sati, and domestic abuse. Tragedies such as the Mathura rape case in 1972, the dowry death of Tarvinder Kaur in 1979, the death of Roop Kanwar by practice of sati in 1987, the gang rape of Bhanwari Devi in 1992, and the New Delhi gang rape case in 2012, have kept the movement focused on rape and given rise to many women’s organizations at the local and national level.
Indira Gandhi is the first female prime minister of India. She is the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India. She served as Prime Minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian Prime Minister, after her father. Pratibha Patil is the first female president of India. She served as the 12th President of India from 2007 to 2012. Sixteen women have served as the chief minister of an Indian state. Currently, one is in office – Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal.
Following the 2019 elections, the 17th Lok Sabha has the highest ever representation of women at 14.3%, which includes 78 women MPs out of 543, higher than 62 in 2014. But only 6 women became cabinet ministers, lower than 10 in 2014.
The U.N. observes that women constitute “world’s largest excluded category”.(13) For the attainment of true democratic spirit shall be ensured better political participation. (14)”In the struggle for gender justice”, Usha Narayanan argues, “Political participation constitutes the first and foremost step in that direction.”(15).
Reservation Bill- 33.33 percent Reservation for Women:-
Women reservation bill was first introduced by Deve Gowda led national front government in September, 1996 as the 81st amendment bill. In 1998, Atal Bihari Vajpai government presented 84th amendment bill for 33% reservation for women. The 12th Lok Sabha too failed to pass the bill. UPA government adopted a different strategy. It has presented the 85th amendment bill in the Rajya Sabha so that it does not lapse with the dissolution of Lok Sabha. The bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha on the 9th March 2010. The bill’s fate remains uncertain till its final passage by the Lok Sabha. Until this the women of India will wait to celebrate this as a legislative victory.
There is a long way to go for the enactment of the bill. Political parties are using this issue to woo women voters. No political party is seriously committed to the issue of reservation for women. No party opposes reservation provided for women in local governments and they want it to be restricted at that level. A critical mass of women is a prerequisite for the effective political participation of women. Women’s participation in political process is to strengthen democratic tradition.
Involvement of women in political arena and in decision-making role is an important tool for empowerment as well as monitoring standards of political performance. Women leaders occupied the position by virtue of their belonging to the either royal families or to elite aristocratic class by way of inheritance. Under-representation or invisibility of women in decision-making reinforces their participation leading to an unequal distribution of resources, neglect of their interests, needs, perspectives and priorities and no say in policy-making. Their voices fall on deaf ears. To effectuate feminization of politics, a critical mass of women in the decision making bodies is yet to emerge
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