Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

The underrepresentation of women in politics wins its spot both in our Constitution together with international law obligations

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Indian Poltics
Smriti Irani, Indian Politician. Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi, August 17, 2017: Where women empowerment in India is given due importance with subjects ranging from ‘Triple Talaq’ to ‘Beti Bachao’, the scenario of women in Indian politics is grim. One recurring question always occurs to the minds of the general public, “Do men only talk about the issues or are they willing to share the power with their female counterparts?”.

The figures are as appalling as the whole scenario. The average proportion of women’s representation in the world stands approximately 22%, while in the case of India it is only 11.8%. Nations like Saudi Arabia, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Rwanda,  Somalia, Iraq, Ghana, and Fiji rank above India. To bring light in the Southern Asia, Afghanistan (54), Nepal (48), Bangladesh (92) and Pakistan (90) rank much higher than India.

A study conducted by the Inter Parliamentary Union indicated the 149th rank of India in the record of 193 countries keeping in view the women’s representation in the lower or single house of parliament. Moreover, Rajya Sabha has the representation of women scantily at 11.1%, mentioned The Wire.

In 1993, the parliament also passed the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments which led to a one-third reservation for women so as to ensure fair representation of women in local bodies. Additionally, more than one-third of the total seats for women were reserved in the legislative bodies like Delhi and Bihar.

In spite of the objective and purpose of the amendments made by the government, there has scarcely been any development concerning the issue. This was also given a thought in the recently-held civic polls in Mumbai and Delhi.

In the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) polls, only 15 by all of 113 unreserved constituencies were acquired by women. Likewise, 138 out of 272 constituencies were reserved for women in the Delhi’s municipal corporation election. Tickets proposed by political parties to women in unreserved constituencies: BJP (2), Congress (6), and AAP (7).

The tickets given to women candidates in reserved constituencies were given not to the grassroots volunteer who toiled day and night for the parties growth, but for their spouses or male relatives.

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The underrepresentation of women in politics wins its spot both in our Constitution together with international law obligations.

Among the purposes explained in the preamble of Indian Constitution,

Article 39A:  State must guarantee that opportunities for obtaining justice are not withheld to any national citizen for reasons of financial or other impediments.
Article 46: inflicts a responsibility on the state to guard weaker sections against social inequality and all forms of prejudices.
Article 25:  all persons are fairly and equitably granted the freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice, and propagate religion subjected to morality, health, and public order.
Article 14: secures the right to equality as a fundamental right, which mandates the equal opportunity for everyone that is also reflected in Article 15(3).
Article 7: binds states to take steps to eliminate discrimination against women in political and public life and to secure women’s eligibility as that of men to contest elections to all public bodies and that they must have the ‘right to participate’ in participating and implementation in government policies.

 

Considering all this, it is horrifying to see the narrow-minded and biased approach in the Indian politics on problems of representation of women. On one side, they buttress the inclusive representation and hypocritically on another side, they exhibit an evident indifference to women’s representation. This can be attached to the understanding that women don’t exist or simply put: It’s a no woman’s land.

There can be umpteen reasons for women’s low representation in Indian politics, varying from implicit masculinity of conventional politics to hurdles like family and marriage and the prevailing socio-economic and political policies.

ALSO READ: Gender Pay Gap: Why are Women Less Paid than Male? 

Exerting a lead from global backgrounds, there are many formulations that can be fostered to ensure fair representation of women. For example, European countries like Sweden have the ‘zipper’ system that mandates the party candidate lists to double between one male and one female candidate. This is done to ensure that every three candidates must include one woman. In democracies like US, New Zealand and Australia, there exists a soft quota system based on the grounds that gender equality will prevail gradually with the pace of time without the need for provisions. In Latin America, legal candidate quotas are the most preferred system.

The equal partnership of men and women in every sphere of life is not only a necessity for justice and democracy but also an ordained situation for peaceful human existence. An active portrayal of women in decision-making framework is the need of an hour.

 


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