Women In Parliament
Authored By- Riya Jariwala
Keywords: Feminism, Indian Politics, Democracy, Equality, Equal rights, Indian Parliament, Women.
Indian Parliament is the foundation of its Democracy. The position of women has long been undermined in our patriarchal society. However, in order to reaffirm India’s commitment to its democratic ethos, it is essential that women are empowered to compete with their male counterparts on all platforms including administrative and legislative levels.
This article gives an insight on the position of women in the Indian Parliament and justifies a need for further reservation and reform measures so as to ensure higher representation of women.
India is the world’s largest democracy with universal adult suffrage across all its states. While gender parity has been ensured in terms of equal voting rights for all genders, it is still a long way to go before the same representation could be ensured in the Administrative and Legislative machinery of India. In Indian society, patriarchy dominates most households and most women are kept away from education, employment and independence. Their chance at having a voice in the parliament are seldom fair since most women in India still lack a voice in their reproductive choices.
Politics and power are often two sides of the same coin. Gender inequity especially in a country’s parliament speaks volumes about the country’s innate politics and social consciousness.
In India, women are often under-represented on all levels of governance owing to stereotypical notions of gender roles and gender prejudices.
Empirical Analysis about the role of women in legislature.
UNWomen states that there is adequate evidence to conclude that women in political leadership roles ensure decision-making processes are improved and often champion issues such as gender-based violence, gender equality laws and childcare among others. The UN report also stated that in India women legislators were far more effective than their male counterparts in enhancing economic growth in their constituencies.
The report further claimed that more often than not these women representatives had no criminal charges against them and were very conscientious about their jobs hence attended almost all sessions in Parliament.
Although women comprise of 50% of the population of India, women hold a mere 10 to 15% of the total seats in the Indian Parliament. The representation women in the bicameral legislature of India is far lower than the world average of 24%. In India women have fared better in ministerial positions with women holding up to 23% ministerial positions.
Since the very first election, India had women representation in the union council of ministers from the very first government. Until 2019, 72 women have been part of Union Council of Ministers. This clearly represents the visible and grave gender divide in our governance system.
Measures to counter the Gender Inequity in the Indian Parliament.
The policy of reservation of seats for particular section of the society in the legislature is well known and disputed. Considering the slow pace of growth of number of women in Indian Parliament, the Women Reservation Bill (108th Amendment Bill) was tabled a decade back. However, it is still pending passage. The Women Reservation Bill proposes to reserve 33% seats for women in the national and state legislatures. It is argued on the basis of experiences from other countries and local bodies in India that even if the public face of politics becomes feminised, without changing the political and social culture and the substantive policy agenda, increased numbers will have no impact.
Although the Women Reservation Bill has not been passed in the Parliament, many regional parties such as the ruling party of Odisha i.e. Biju Janta Dal (BJD) has introduced 33% reservation at party level stating that 33% of the party’s tickets would be granted to women representatives to fight elections. This is a welcome move and similar initiatives ought to be encouraged to reiterate the commitment of a party to strengthen the role of women in Indian Parliament. The Vice President of India Sri M Venkiah Naidu yesterday urged political parties once again to arrive at a consensus on the pending proposal of reservation of women in the parliament. Naidu cited the accomplishments of outstanding women like Prabhavati, the daughter of Chandra Gupta II, who performed administrative duties in her kingdom and Razia Sultana, the only woman monarch to rule Delhi.
In addition to reservation, academic curriculum ought to be moulded in such a way that the contribution of women, their role and the values of gender equity be emphasised. This would ensure that the future citizens of our nation are motivated to support equal rights movements, terminate stereotypical and mythical notions about the role of women.
While Discrimination on the basis of gender is prohibited in accordance with Article 15 of the Constitution of India, a special concession is made so as to give effect to any reservation for women. This provision was made by our constitution makers keeping in mind, the nature of Indian society and the need to uplift the status of women so as to remove all kinds of gender inequity.
Ensuring equal representation for women requires a systemic effort at culminating patriarchy and misogyny so that women are judged based on their merit rather than their gender. Law making and legislating is one of the most important function of a state, therefore it is essential that women are adequately engaged therein so that the society is freed from the shackles of domestic violence, rape culture, sexual abuse and other forms of discrimination.
As Eleanor Roosevelt rightly said,
“ No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”