Political Participation of Women in India

Women form around 50% of the population of the world. Considering that, there is no way such a huge amount of section can be neglected in the political sphere. Women’s leadership in life is essential to their advancement. No serious efforts appear to have been made to mobilize women as a political pressure group by any political party. Caste, personality and families of candidate appear to be more important to voters than party ideology or affiliations. Factors like education, religion, class and tradition also seem to affect women’s participation . In the last five years, it is noted that in the country, the number of women voter is increasing rapidly in proportion to the men voters.

A publication brought by Inter-Parliamentary Union in February 1997, entitled “Men and Women in Politics – Democracy still in the making”, brought to light the glaring facts regarding the disproportionate representation of women in politics. Despite the International Women’s year 1975, followed by the Women’s Decade, 1976-1985 and international women’s conferences under the U.N., the percentage of women in the parliaments in different countries has been dropping : it was 14.8 percent in 1988 and it dropped to 11.6 in 1996. The number of parliaments has gone up from 20 in 1946 to 186 in 1996, but women are totally under-represented-parliaments in as many as ten countries – Djibouti, Kiribati, Kuwait, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Saint Lucia, Tonga and UAE – do not have a single women representative.

While women constitute nearly half of the electorate, their representation in elected bodies including the two Houses of Parliament, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in India, has always been negligible. The low representation given to them by the various political parties on their lists of candidates for the elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies (Vidhansabha) was not merely an indicator of their inferior political status but revealed their subordinate position in a society and refusal to recognize their right and ability to participate in the nation’s developmental activities.

Political Participation of Women in India

The effective empowerment of women in India is still very marginal. In all the fourteen Lok Sabha (lower and people’s representative house of the parliament); women’s representation is found in between 3.4 percent to 8.7 percent of the total members of Lok Sabha. In the XIV Lok Sabha only 8.1 percent were women. For this Lok Sabha 354 women candidates contested the election and 44 were elected. Mostly these candidates are independent and few are nominated by the political parties. Thus, women’s representation in fourteenth Lok Sabha has been negligible. A February 1997 report on Inter-Parliamentary Unions says that Indian women hold only 7. 1 percent seats in the Lower House and 9 percent seats in the Upper House.

The percentage of women members of Legislative Assemblies in the states is also not very encouraging. Though in comparison to 1952, the percentage in the years from 1995 to 2004 has been increased but still it is insignificant. According to a press statement issued by a consortium of 18 centres for women’s studies, the number of women candidates was barely three percent. There has been a decrease in women’s participation in mainstream politics. It indicates that women’s representation is generally determined by the leaders attitude, more than anything.

Article 14 and 15

Article 14 of the constitution of India ensures to women the right to equality. Article 15(1) specifically provides for affirmative and positive action in favour of women by empowering the state to make special provisions for them; and the article 16 of the Constitution provides for equality of opportunity to all, in matters relating to public employment or appointment to any office and specifically forbids discrimination inter-alia on the ground of sex. These articles are all justiciable and form on the basis of our legal Constitutional history.

Article 14 and 15 need to be followed which means that there should be enough opportunities created for women in the political matters so that they come at an equal footing with men. Women should not be secluded from the political sphere of the country as they form half the population of the country. How is the nation going to survive if half of its population is not made a part of the political process.

Political Participation of Women in India

Article 243D(3)

Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243 D(3).

This ensures that women are given equal representation in the local governing bodies of the country and that they are not left behind. The cause for this provision are the 73rd and 74th amendment made in the constitution in the year 1993. The 73rd  and 74th  Amendments (1993) to the Indian constitution have served as a major breakthrough towards enhancing the women’s participation in democratic process. These amendments provided for reservation of 33.33 per cent of elected seats.

Article 243D(4)

According to this clause, Not less than one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women.

However, it must be remembered that guaranteeing a right in law does not ensure the ability to access the right in reality. The fact that the historical subjection of women has not come to an end is constantly before us in the form of the reducing number of women in each census. It is falling at an alarming rate which is a matter of concern. Similarly crimes against women have been on the increase. Incidents of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence, cheating etc. have been growing not only in numbers but also in intensity and brutality.

Political Participation of Women in India

Article 243T(3)

Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality.

Article 243T(4)

Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide.

Thus these two articles of the constitution make sure that women are represented properly in the municipalities as municipalities because if they’re not made a part of the lowest level of government, then how can we ensure their participation in the parliament and state assemblies. Their participation needs to be started at the grass root level, only then women can make sure that they’re not left out of such important positions of power.