The feminization of Indian politics means the increase in women's participation in the politics of the country. The word Political Participation has deep meaning. It not only means the Right to vote but also includes the involvement of women in the decision-making process, power-sharing, running political parties, holding political offices, and policymaking at all levels of governance of the state.
To understand the political participation of women, we need to divide the political involvement of women in three-level:
- Political participation of women at the national level(Basically in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, National political parties, or any other ways by which women further their political interest).
- Political participation of women at the state level politics(In the legislative assembly or any state-level politics).
- Political participation of women at the local level in the panchayat and the municipalities.
- Constitution has provided equal opportunities for both men and women in all the spheres including the political area with article 14, article 15, and article 16 of the constitution
- Moreover, Article 325 and 326 guarantees political equality, equal Right to participate in political activities, and the Right to vote, respectively.
- Apart from this, the 73rd Constitutional amendment has added article 243(D)(3), which provides reservation to the women.
- It provides reservation to women not less than 1/3rd of the total number of seats to be filled by direct elections of the panchayat.
- Due to this, more than 10 lakh women entered the local level politics of the country.
- However, no such reservation is provided at the national level as well as the state level. and hence only 78 women elected to the parliament in the recent Lok Sabha election
- Similarly, in state-level politics, the participation of women is less.
Need of women in Indian politics:
- Increasing the women in Indian politics will help in better representation of women's and children's concerns in policymaking.
- Women legislators in India gave a better performance in their constituencies by approx 1.8% per year more than male legislators.
- Even in terms of corruption, efficiency, and motivation, women show better results.
- Male legislators are almost three times as likely as the female legislature to have criminal charges pending against them when they contest the election,
- Even in terms of assets accumulation in office, women do this 10% point lower than men.
- Since economic infrastructure is valuable input, Women politicians are more likely to complete the project. It is based on the performance of MLA in the implementation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
- Despite so many favourable points for women, women make up 14% of the Lok Sabha and 11% of the Rajya sabha.
- Women constitute only 9% of State assembly members and only 5% of the state Council members.
Reason for less entry of women in Indian politics
- Low status in society: Women are treated as a second class citizen, and patriarchal society often think that women are only for domestic responsibilities
- The restraining cultural norms
- Poor economic status: Women often face the problem of finance for their participation in the election
- Lesser exposure to education Women are often considered as a liability in some parts of the country and deprived of fundamental rights such as education
- The unhealthy political environment: For instance In this recent #me too movement, a journalist Priya Ramani accused Union Minister of state of external affairs, MJ Akbar of sexual harassment.
- Lack of leadership training: Women's participation is often limited at the low level in the political party, and no leadership training is provided to them.
- Lack of political will: Political parties in India tend not to follow provisions in their constitutions reserving seats for women in different committees
- On the reserved seats, at the local level, political leaders take positions in the name of their wife, and after winning elections, actual power is used by their male counterparts instead of women. (Concept of sarpanch pati raj)
The situation in other countries
- India ranked 148 in terms of representation of women in executive government and parliament as per the Women in Politics report, 2017 published by Inter-parliamentary union and UN women
- Rwanda has the maximum participation of women in the parliament, where women have won 61.3% of seats in the lower house.
- Only three countries namely Rwanda, Cuba, and Bolivia have more than 50% participation
- Globally, there are 27 countries in which women have less than 10% of parliamentarians in the single or lower house. Three states have no women at all in the parliament
- Nordic countries have 42.5%, Americas, 30.6%, Europe excluding Nordic countries 28.6%
- Sub-Saharan Africa has 23.9%, Asia 19.8%, Pacific 16.3%, and Arab states have 19 percent participation
How to enhance such participation
- Political mentoring: Mentoring and training skill programs prepare women for political work and strengthen their political skills.
- Building women's platform, networks, and pools of potential candidates for their developments
- Training women to raise funds and establish funds raise systems to decrease the obstacle of financial disadvantage.
- Provide opportunities to strengthen elected women's influence and leadership, such as conducting orientation for the newly elected women, networking opportunities, governance skill training.
- Political parties should identify potential women candidates and support them.
- Political parties need to create a conducive and safe environment for women in the political party.
- Political parties create Internal complaints committees and other grievance redressal method so that, women feel safe and have a mechanism for complete redressal of their complaints
- Parliament itself pass women reservation legislation. There are various advantage of women reservation
- Issues related to women will get much more priority in the parliament and can be resolved easily
- It can also help in making the atmosphere of the parliament and state assemblies more conducive for debates and discussions
- Panchayati Raj is a positive example of reservation in the country
- Behaviour change of the society by street plays, nataks or counselling with the cases of women leaders
- Promoting education among women so that women get a fair chance.
- Organizing women youth parliament, which provides a platform for women to develop skills for political participation.
- States such as Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, and 14 others have implemented a 50% reservation of the women in the Panchayati Raj Institutions. Rest states should follow
- The central government, with the consent of the state government, should introduce a constitution amendment bill for the 50% reservation for women in the whole country.
SDG goal 5 has a target " Ensure women's full and active participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision making in political, economic, and public life. That needs to be achieved with the collective efforts of the international community(SDG goal 17- Partnership for the goals.)
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to ensure gender inequality in politics. But there is plenty that can and should be done to ensure that women's voices are heard.