Women participation in politics has always been an issue from ancient times to modern day politics. Conventionally, they have been playing second-fiddle to their male counterparts for no fault of theirs. Milbrath and Goel observed, it is a tradition in almost all societies that governance and policymaking is the fiefdom of men. Even the most advanced nation, one of the oldest democracies of the world namely United States of America recognised their right to vote after lot of struggle. The reason for the same is not very hard to fathom despite the advances made in almost every field.
The phrase ‘political participation’ has a very wide meaning. It not merely translates to the ‘Right to vote’ but is related to involvement in decision making process, political activism and political consciousness. As against this basic notion of democracy, what is normally observed is that women are excluded from different walks of life, more visibly in politics; basing it on patriarchal reasoning that women are intellectually inferior to men.
According to UN Women, there are just 20 countries across the globe with a woman Head of State/Government.
- Rwanda tops the list with the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide, where, women have won 61.3 per cent of seats in the lower house.
- Only 24.3 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of February 2019, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995
- Wide variations remain in the average percentages of women parliamentarians in different region. Nordic countries, 42.5 per cent; Americas, 30.6 per cent; Europe including Nordic countries, 28.6 per cent; Europe excluding Nordic countries, 27.2 per cent; Sub-Saharan Africa, 23.9 per cent; Asia, 19.8 per cent; Arab States, 19 per cent; and the Pacific, 16.3 per cent.
- India ties with Hungary at a derisory hundred and forty eightieth (148th) rank with 12.6 per cent.
The United Nations (UN) observes that women constitute World’s Largest Excluded Category. In any political system, right from the developed to the developing countries, presence of women is very low compared to men. In many countries women had to wage long battles to get the right to vote. Today the percentage of women voters might have increased but their political participation is still very low as compared to men and therefore women are unable to get an equal share in organisation that requires decision making politics at every level of its functioning.
In ancient India reverence was given to women as mother’s image, a symbol of life. In the Vedic era, women enjoyed considerable freedom as far as political, social and educational activities were concerned, thereby, enjoying status and prestige in society.
The medieval period witnessed a gradual decline in the position and status of women in India. They were considered weak and it was the responsibility of men to protect them.
During this period, there emerged social evils like female infanticide, child marriage and the practice of sati began in society. Such atrocious practices were responsible for the deterioration of women to a great extent both in the family and society.
The foundation of political participation of women was laid down during the National Movement, Government of India took to constitutional reforms and legal measures to improve the condition of women in India but it doesn’t show effectively at ground level.
Article 14 guarantees, equality before law and equal protection of law within the territory of India.
Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth. It is a guarantee against every form of discrimination.
Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunity to all citizens in matter relating to employment.
Article 39(a) right to an adequate means of livelihood for all citizens & Article 39(b) is about equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
Article 42 is about human condition of work and maternity leave as well as 73rd & 74th constitutional amendment and reservation Bill 33.33% reservation for women.
Its seventy years and we are far from fulfilling the solemn vow mentioned in the Preamble of our Constitution: JUSTICE, social, economic and political
EQUALITY, of status and opportunity
Reservation of seats alone can never result in remarkable improvement in the percentage representation of women in politics. While novel ideas towards progress are indeed welcome, what we need more is effective implementation of the existing norms and provisions. Role of media has been instrumental in promoting the cause of Women Equality and their presence in parliament.
To conclude one can say that the role of Indian women in the nation building process of India has been as important as the men. They have played a crucial role in every possible manner be it politics, social work, welfare of the downtrodden, supporting a cause, running business, handling administrative, literature etc..
Author: Malahat Jahan