WOMEN’S PARTICIPATION IN POLITICS
Anjali kumari, III year of B.A.,LL.B from BVDU, New Law College Pune
Political participation includes the exercise of the right to vote, power-sharing, membership of political parties, electoral campaigns, attending party meetings, holding party positions, contesting elections, co-decision making, co-policy making at all levels of state governance. Simply put, it is a mechanism in which individuals play a role in political life in identifying the shared objectives of the society and the best way to achieve them. The preamble starts with the words "WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA....."which includes men and women of all castes, religions etc... It aims to give "EQUALITY of status and opportunity" to both man and woman. Women make up slightly more than half of the world's population, and their contribution to the social and economic growth of societies is more than half that of men because of their dual positions in the productive and reproductive spheres. [i]
However, women are excluded from decision-making at every stage of the ladder, from the household to the highest level of policy-making. While the constitution of India aims to abolish gender inequality by enshrining fundamental rights for all people, women still have only de jure, rather than de facto, access to these rights. The participation of women in politics includes four areas, namely women being informed of political and governmental processes, and women holding governmental issues, women being involved and engaged in the discussion of political affairs, women participating in the governmental processes, and women holding governmental office [ii]. According to the study "Women in Politics" released by the UN, India ranked 148th in the category of "women in parliament" and 88th in the category of women in a ministerial position. Male politicians are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that women have great power, girls account for 50% of the population of school students, women seem to be much better at handling the financial crisis than men, the recession primarily affected the masculine part of the business- widespread layoffs hit typically male industries, such as cars, tobacco, financial services, in the U.S men account for 80% of people who lost jobs as the result of the recent crisis. [iii]
At the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, women's associations were formed throughout the country. These groups have dealt with issues surrounding women, such as the right to vote, etc. During this time, three key organizations were set up.
• The Women's Indian Association (WIA): WIA based its work on faith, education, politics and philanthropy. Annie Besant became WIA's first president along with Margaret Cousins. • The National Women's Council in India (NCWI): founded in 1925 as the national branch of the International Women's Council. Owing to its elitist existence, the NCWI was unable to become a critical national organization
• The All India Women’s Conference (AIWC): AIWC materialized due to the dedicated work of Margaret Cousins and other women of WIA and it first met in Poona in January 1927. It worked for female education and opposed social customs that restricted female education such as child marriage and purdah.
• Women also participated actively alongside men in various independence movements like non-corporation, salt march; the swadeshi movement for the attainment of liberty.UNICEF cites the following reasons for women's political participation:
• Women's political participation has the potential to transform cultures.
• It can affect women's and children's outcomes especially in the distribution of community resources.
• Involvement in peace talks and post-conflict reconstruction is necessary to ensure the welfare and health of children and marginalized parts of the populace. India performs poorly in the Global Gender Gap Index reported by the World Economic Forum, which examines how women participate in economic participation, health education and political representation. With just 11 per cent representation in the lower house of Parliament and 10.6 per cent in the upper house, there is an immediate need to introduce measures to increase the role of women in the country's politics. Although the proposal to enhance the role of women in politics has been in the pipeline for a long time, the bill that was introduced for the same thing lapsed in the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. It had been trapped in the lower house for a long time and had eventually lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha led by the members elected in the 2009 general election. The constitution of India guarantees equality for both men and women. Their participation in policy formulation and regulation is important since they constitute almost half of the total population. They could serve as a role model for equality of women and could bring behavioural change to women in society. More centred policies on women's protection, education, child care, MMR, child marriage, domestic violence, etc where women are involved in decision-making due to their emotional connection to these issues. India has seen the active involvement of women in the country's fight for dependency on colonial forces. This participation was recognized after independence when universal suffrage was implemented in the very first elections to be held in independent India. However, in more than a decade of independence, the country has seen only a handful of influential female politicians, including the first and only female prime minister to date, Indira Gandhi. Pratibha Patil, former president of the country, J Jayalalithaa, Vasundhara Raje, Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj, are few other politicians who have managed to infiltrate the male supremacy continuum.
The bill was introduced with a plan to amend the constitution of India and to reserve 33% of all seats for women in the lower house of parliament and state legislatures. These seats were to be allocated on a rotational basis in such a way that only one seat would be reserved in three consecutive general elections.
The basis of the proposal was laid down in a constitutional amendment, which was adopted in 1993, aimed at reserving one-third of women's roles in Gram Panchayat. Since then the Panchayat and the Municipal have seen an increase in the representation of women. Though, the fog of these women is mere faces to the elections with their husband or son leading the political fight. The plan was also applied to the same 33 percent women's seats in the Parliament and the Legislative Assembly. However, some people objected to the bill arguing that there would be prejudice against the others. Women's presence in Indian politics is smaller than the global average representation of women. Our country is below Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe and many more. Unless and until the involvement of women in the covering body of the country raises, serious grievances such as acid attacks, abuse, grief, riots, and killings will not be dealt with serious concern. Political parties should come together to increase the representation of women.
The lack of a sufficient mass of women leaders has driven women to the periphery of power-sharing and has detrimental effects on their overall political standing. Gender roles that women view as poor leaders should be modified by knowledge and education. Efforts need to be made to increase the involvement of women in government in significant numbers.
[iii] Joanna Marszalek- Kawa, The Participation of Women in Politics. Deliberations on the Gender Parity Bill