Goa’s women voters outnumber men electors, and the state’s female literacy rate is higher than the national average, but when it comes to getting tickets for the assembly elections, they appear to have been short-changed.
Less than 7% of the candidates in the Feb 4 Goa polls are women, which is lower than in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Of the 251 candidates in the fray across Goa’s 40 constituencies, only 17 are women, and 29 constituencies do not have any women candidates.
The outgoing Goa assembly has two women legislators — Alina Saldanha of the BJP and Jennifer Monserrate of the Congress.
Saldanha agrees the “trend is indeed quite disturbing”. “Women in the state are not encouraged to contest elections. I feel if we have more women candidates, then a lot of issues which are not given much importance will be heard,” said the MLA from Cortalim. Saldanha is the only woman minister in the Laxmikant Parsekar-led BJP government.
Incidentally, the BJP and the Congress, have nominated just four women candidates. While the BJP has Saldanha, the Congress has nominated women candidates for Taleigao, Sanguem and Marcaim. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has nominated the highest number of women candidates — five.
Nuvem, Fatorda, St Andre and Velim, four constituencies that have a substantially higher number of women voters, do not have any women candidates, either from the key parties or as independents.
So what stops women from entering politics despite the fact that Goa has had a woman chief minister in Shashikala Kakodkar?
According to rights activist Albertina Almeida, politics is still considered an arena reserved for men. “Historically speaking, Goa has never had more than four women MLAs in the assembly (at a time). Moreover, the women we see contesting are those whose husbands are already in politics. The examples of the existing BJP and Congress MLA substantiate this,” she said.
Saldanha is the wife of late Matanhy Saldanha, who was a top leader and environmental activist, and Monserrate is the wife of seasoned leader Atanasio Monserrate. Kakodkar, daughter of Goa’s first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar, was sworn in as CM after her father’s death in 1973. Kakodkar, who died in October last year, remains Goa’s only woman CM.