WOMEN TODAY AND POLITICS
– K. Jagadeeswari
“I would boycott that legislature which will not have a proper share of women members”
– Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi has played an important role in the participation of women in political activities in India. Gandhiji was uncompromising in the matter of women’s rights. Mahatma Gandhi was the first man to encourage the participation of women in politics. The constitution of India guarantees equal rights to men and women as voters and citizens. Presently there are very few women Parliamentarians in India.
While the global average for the women in Parliament stands at 22.4 percent. India is at the 103rd place out of 140 countries with a mere 12 percent representaton (66 MPs). Within Asia, India is at the 13th position out of 18 countries. Countries like South Sudan, Saudi Arabia have better women representation in Parliament than India.
Mahatma Gandhi stated that women should seek justice, never favour. Even though Mahatma Gandhi was not in favour of any scheme of nominating members to legislative bodies, he stated if the women were left out he would “ have a clause in the constitution which would enable the elected legistature to elect those who should have been elected, but have not been elected or unfustly left out by the electorate”.
Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, as India’s first Law Mnister and Chairman of Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, incorporated Article 14, Article 15, Article 39 etc., and passed the Hindu Code Bill.
The Women’s Reservation Bill, which was first introduced in 1996, was passed in RajyaSabha in 2010 but till today, the bill is not passed in Lok Sabha.
The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993 reserved seats for women at the local level bodies namely the Panchayats and Municipalities with the hope that these measures will set the trend to provide women their legitimate place in public life. This was led to an increase in the numeric strength of women in active politics in Rural and Semi-Urban areas.
It is an accepted fact that without being proportionately present in the political system, a group’s ability to influence policy-making, or indeed the nature of representative system, is rather limited. Greater the number, greater the possibility of wielding power and influence. However, despite the women constituting about half of the world’s population as well as the labour force, they do not have any major and effective say in the decision making and priority setting. ‘Women in National Parliaments (World Classification)’ prepared by Inter-Parliamentary Union is place in the Annexure – I. Not involving women in decision-making therefore, is blatantly against the Democratic framework. Democracy, by definition, cannot afford to be gender-blind.
The equal participation of women and men in public life is one of the cornerstones of the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1979, and in force since 1981. India is a signatory to the convention. Despite that, discrimination in matters of representation of women in decision-making bodies continues.
It is important to remember that quotas for women do not remove all barriers for women in politics. Stigmatization of women politicians may even increase in quota systems. Difficulties combining family life, work life and politics still remain a severe obstacle to women in the political field. Further, political representation cannot stand alone, but must be complemented with necessary Socio-Economic changes in Society at large.
The Nordic Countries have for a long time, been world famous for their relatively high proportions of women in politics. It took them nearly 100 years to achieve this position. It is interesting that for a long time female representation developed in parallel in all the Nordic Countries, despite there being great differences between the countries when it comes to the voters’ opportunities to influence which candidates are actually elected. The extreme ends of this spectrum of difference are on the one hand the compulsory preferential voting systems in Finland and in the other the situation at parliamentary elections in Norway, where voters can only choose between parties.
Communist Countries many not be known for participatory democracy, but they often place emphasis on gender equality. 48.9 percent of Cuba’s National Parliament Seats are held by women.
Lenin had a firm conviction that no revolution is possible without the participation of women.
Indian Society is still mired in feudal and patriarchal trends. Day in and Day out, we witness heinous crimes on women. In order to sensitize the society on the issues of women, there should be unleashing of women power in politics. Till that is realized fully, we can’t visualize building of just society. The need of the hour is to harness the potential of women in political, in the larger interests of our country.
Department of Hindi, Andhra University, Visakhaptanam, E – mail: [email protected]