New Delhi: Even though women make up almost half of India’s population, they continue to be underrepresented at all levels of government.
Of the 4,118 members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) across the country, only 9% are women, according to the Economic Survey released on Monday. And among them, the highest percentage of women legislators come from Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan (14%), followed by Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal (13%) and Punjab (12%).
In 1966, India had its first and only woman prime minister, but despite that and ever since, women in the country have historically remained on the margins of politics.
According to a report Women in Politics 2017 by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women, the Lok Sabha had 64 (11.8% of 542 MPs) and the Rajya Sabha 27 (11% of 245 MPs) women MPs. Based on these numbers, the report ranks India 148 out of 227 countries in terms of representation of women in executive government and Parliament.
The cover of this year’s survey, which was released by chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian, was pink in colour signifying an extension of the government’s “support to the movement for women’s rights."
The 2012 gangrape and sexual torture of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi woke up political parties, prompting a focus on women in election manifestos and budgets—even if, as women’s rights activists say, it has mostly been tokenism.
Despite this commitment by the parties, ahead of any election campaign in the country, sexist and derogatory remarks start doing the rounds against women contestants, in some cases forcing them to withdraw their nomination. Be it the smear campaign against Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party or the public groping of the Congress party’s Nagma, these incidents point to the problems women face when they decide to join politics.
The survey reiterated the government’s commitment to women saying it is critical to strengthen women’s agencies for building a progressive society with equality of opportunities among all citizens.
But Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research in Delhi, said, “The government is only interested in playing politics around gender issues. If the passage of triple talaq is for gender rights, shouldn’t the government push for the long pending women’s reservation bill?"