WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS
Updated: Jan 11
Sharon Mary Viji, III year of B.A.,LL.B, from Christ (Deemed to be University)
Harshitha Jayavel, III year of B.A.,LL.B, from Ramaiah College of Law
Women in India are granted the same rights as men are rough the Constitution of India. It is common knowledge that a woman can vote, work, pray and live as they wish. However, this doesn't guarantee a a complete lack of stigma concerning women doing things outside their household, especially considering Indian customs and beliefs.
Women face challenges in every facet of life in a male-dominated society. The same holds for women in politics.
Even with the reservations and laws ensuring the upliftment of women, they are ofttimes a minority.
Out of the 545 members of the Lok Sabha, 78 are currently women, a record high, yet a concerningly low number.
Through this article, we try to decipher women's position in the Indian political scene; the challenges they face and the victories celebrated.
FEMALE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP IN INDIA
Women have been an essential part of history and continue to play important roles. However, women still face discrimination and troubles while participating in politics.
It is important to acknowledge that gender barriers exist against women regarding acceptance and support from people. While women hailing from political backgrounds have an easier path carved toward the road to a successful political career, those who come from other walks of life face an obstacle course to manoeuvre through before reaching a status of importance and respect. It is not for lack of knowledge, education, or even experience, but only because of society's structural gender bias. Despite the several biases against women, they have risen, created names for themselves, held powerful positions and made important decisions.
A few women of note are: Indira Gandhi, first and only woman Prime Minister of India. Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress and the most influential figure. Kiran Bedi, Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, and the first female IPS officer of India. Uma Bharti, former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. Sushma Swaraj, former Minister of External Affairs and Supreme Court lawyer. Women who have risen through the ranks of society and politics held immense power and have proven their worth.
Nevertheless, they remain under-represented. Recent trends have been showing more and more participation of women in politics. A positive direction, and yet we have a long way to go.
Women have it much harder than men in India's political theatre at every step:
joining a political party
Participating in political programmes
Working with male colleagues and experiencing various degrees of harassment
Getting a ticket
Finding room within power structures
Dealing with misogyny and often sexist taunts and accusations
Furthermore, no party is an exception to that.
Although present Lok Sabha has the highest number of women members in its history, it still falls short of the pledge of 33 per cent seats (which is part of the long-standing women's reservation bill).
However, representation is just one, although important, aspect of women's political participation. It is equally critical how women politicians are viewed and how their peers and critics frame their approach to the issue of gender.
Indira Gandhi for long was and continues to be one of the most prominent figures of the Indian National Congress and Indian politics itself. Her political career is filled with triumphs and controversy, making for an intriguing tale of the first and only woman Prime Minister of India.
Indira Gandhi, being the daughter of the esteemed Jawaharlal Nehru, has known politics since she was born and had been a staunch believer and participant in India's struggle for independence.
When she started her first term as Prime Minister, she faced severe criticism for being nought but a puppet of those in the Congress party. However, over the years, she established herself as a true leader.
In her first term, she went about a split in the Congress, called for the nationalisation of 14 of India's biggest banks and brought about 'Garibi Hatao'. She was accused and convicted of election fraud, but her party and supporters' unwavering support safeguarded her political career. Her time in Parliament saw the 24th Amendment in response to the Supreme Court's verdict in the Golaknath case.
Perhaps the most discussed facet of her political career is the period of emergency declared throughout the country as a response to 'internal disturbance'. Indira Gandhi's political opponents remained imprisoned during this period, and she brought about the censorship of the press. Many criticisms hurled at the steps taken in terms of political prisoners, enactment of several laws in an illegal manner, changes brought to the constitution, mass sterilisation, and so on.
The elections at the end of the Emergency in 1977 saw the end of Indira Gandhi's political career with the fall of the once-mighty Congress.
India's first female President assumed office after what is considered a low-profile career in politics. She is armed with a Masters in Political Science and Economics and a law degree. From an MLA in 1962 to the President of the Nation in 2007, Pratibha Patil's political career is considered silent. However, this does not mean that she has not had her fair share of criticism Pratibha often took trips overseas, accompanied by relatives. There was constant questioning about her usage of public funds and the large acquisition of land in Pune to construct a retirement home. After facing severe critique because the land was for the Indian military's service members' widows, she gave the land up. Another controversy that arose during her office time was commuting many inmates' death sentences, albeit for severe crimes. She also granted clemency to those who petitioned against the sentence. Thus, she ended her relatively quiet term as President with slighter friction than those who held office before her.
Fearless and tenacious, Sushma Swaraj, former Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, was a leader who played many roles in her long political leadership. By being proactive in reaching out to Indians in distress in foreign lands, she might be remembered best for giving the role of foreign minister and all-new dimension.
Her short tenure as Chief Minister of Delhi was significant because she broke a barrier as the first woman Chief Minister of State.
That was almost as relevant as being in the Haryana cabinet in 1977, at 25 years, the youngest cabinet minister. Her closeness to stalwart L.K. Advani was what contributed to her rise. She was one of the four Advani disciples known as the D4, the four influential Delhi leaders who pretty much ruled the party: Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ananth Kumar.
It got her into the headlines by being opinionated and straightforward.
Perhaps what contributed to that was her self-confidence—and that she was never afraid to walk alone. Maybe that's why she permitted media people to get up to her and ask questions.
There may have been mixed feelings for her supporters about some of the scandals surrounding her—such as facilitating former cricket administrator Lalit Modi's international travel documents in 2011 and dancing at Gandhi Samadhi in Rajghat while staging a rally. In their later years, women leaders, including the fiery ones among them, also come to be seen as mother figures.
Sushma Swaraj was no exception, and this portrayal was supported by her position as Minister of External Affairs. Even so, it was always shocking to those who saw her for the first time that she was not very tall.
Jayaram Jayalalitha was one of India's most eccentric and controversial politicians. Being one of the country's most charismatic and eccentric figures, attempting to hold her own in Tamil politic's masculine world and effectively breaking the more than 30-year-old male domination culture.
Other female prime ministers, such as Indira Gandhi and Benazir Bhutto, who came from political families, Jayalalitha, on the other contrary, came from a middle-class family, where her mother was a small-time actress.
Her ability to speak English, she considered a social marker, and her ability to sing marked her ability in the film business. Moreover, even in her acting career, Jayalalitha was not afraid to challenge established norms.
Fame and success came at a cost, though – there was intense tabloid interest in her private life, while her heartbreaks were food for local Tamil magazines. She was under similar scrutiny when she became a politician.
While her rivals exemplified their party's ideals and promoted their dynastic brand of politics, Jayalalitha's lone person as a single woman was held up to ridicule. She has successfully built up an almost indelible cult of personality through welfare schemes-and cheap food, and water products labelled "Amma" after her nickname, Mother, which was given to the poor. Subsidies accounted for more than a third of Tamil Nadu's revenue spending, and women and children were loved by the policies.
Tamil Nadu also became the first state in India to allow government hospitals to perform transgender medical procedures to help fight infections. Jayalalitha spent much of her time in the court dealing with multiple allegations of corruption. Nevertheless, she will also be remembered as a woman who stayed up and made her version of history, both in the film world and politics.
Born into the royal house of Cooch Behar, Rajmata Gayatri Devi was Maharaja Jitendra Narayan and Maharani Indira Devi's daughter. Born almost a century ago on 23rd May, 1919 in London, she continues to be an exemplary symbol of beauty, poise and style.
Rajmata Gayatri Devi broke the conventional norms when she ventured into politics as a Swatantra party member and won a seat in Lok Sabha from the Jaipur constituency in 1962 with a landslide sweep with the world's largest majority of votes, 192,909 out of 246,516. She was India's version of the People's princess, being immensely popular for her charity work, setting up Rajasthan's first all-girls school and, of course, wife of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh.
The party was pumped up to contest their first election in 1962, and many Royal families roped in the best candidates. It was also the first election of the party that went to Parliament in 1962 as the second-largest opposition party after the Communist Party of India (undivided back then). For two consecutive terms, she was a successful politician, raised her voice on regional and national affairs and was not a scapegoat. Despite being a young parliamentarian, she's remembered for raising her voice against Jawaharlal Nehru during a debate on the Indo-China war regarding International Affairs and National Security. Relations between Indira Gandhi and Rajmata Gayatri Devi were threatened with Devi's strong presence and popularity that hit the tipping point during the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975.
Throughout the country, income tax raids were conducted that pushed Gayatri Devi behind bars for five months on the "accusation" of "undeclared gold and wealth".
As it appeared, Gayatri Devi decided to step down from politics and rebalance herself entirely towards women's empowerment and social welfare.
Although there have been many important victories in the coming years for women's participation in it.
Politics, cynicism, mockery and objectification are still faced when they step into the political fray.
These are manifestations of unstable patriarchy, jolted by the notion of women as leaders and decision-makers
Taking their position, representing their problems and desires rather than relying on men in authority to do otherwise.