The term ‘political participation’ has a very broad meaning. It is not only related to ‘Right to Vote’, but is also concerned with taking part in administrative procedure, political activism, political awareness, etc. Democracy in any country is successful and effective if all the citizens participate in the political processes of that country.
The political participation of women in India is very low, especially in the legislative system. The percentage of women elected to the Indian Parliament and Legislative Assemblies has stagnated at around 10% since 1947. Women MPs comprise less than 12% of the outgoing Lok Sabha members i.e., half the global average of 23.4%; the figure has never gone past 12% at any point. There are disquieting warnings of a possible downhill development, going by the current assembly elections in five states, which brought the percentage of female MLAs down to 9% from the preceding 11% (2013-14); Chhattisgarh was the only exception.
Relatively smaller countries and newer democracies demonstrate better records in this regard. Tiny Guam’s recently assembled legislature boasts a female membership of 67%. Rwanda, which has been setting world records since 2003, still has a slight edge, with women now constituting 67.5% of its lower house of Parliament. Sudan (30.5%) and Pakistan (20.6%) are also well ahead of India. The November 2018 elections in the US brought a record number of women into the 116th Congress: nearly a quarter of its voting membership.
India’s appalling status seems defy all reason — apart from that of unconcealed and rampant patriarchy and male privilege. Women have always enjoyed voting rights in independent India. They comprise 49% of the nation’s voters. In most states, the female voter turnout now surpasses that of men. During the 2014 general elections, female turnout was 65.3%, up from 55.82% in 2009, and the gender gap stood at a mere 1.8 percentage points, the narrowest margin on record.
Elevating the allocation of women in India’s state legislative assemblies is likely to lead to better representation of women’s and children’s concerns in policymaking. We need to promote the participation of women in politics so that the problems and conditions of women are highlighted, and the majority of our male legislators who seemingly live in the Neanderthal ages understand that “allocating an increase in the women representation in Parliament will NOT persuade young men to whistle in the Parliament”. This will also encourage many women to participate and contribute to the political developments.
Adyashree Bohra is a Content Writer at The True Voice.