Women in Maharashtra lag behind men, both as registered voters and those who eventually come out to vote.
Maharashtra’s women total up to 48.17% of its 11.23 crore population. However, the state has fewer women on its voters’ lists than there should be, given its women population above 18 years. Only 65.7% of the eligible women are registered as voters, according to the Election Commission of India data.
The sex ratio in Maharashtra is 925 per 1,000 men, according to per the Census 2011. However, the electoral gender gap — number of eligible women registered voters to their male counterparts — is only 887, which means fewer women register themselves as voters. The national average through the last decade has been 883 per 1,000 male voters; it was 715 in the 1960s and 70s.
The turnout of women voters in successive assembly elections has been consistently lower than that of men, but more than half of women voters have come out and voted. The highest turnout was in the 1995 election when it touched 70.6%. In each of the six elections, women’s turnout has been higher than in the closest Lok Sabha election, where the turnout did not even touch 50% in some.
Why women turnout shows these trends is a matter of study. “The average turnout has been increasing in the past 20 years, thanks to the awareness in younger women. There may be regional variations behind t he average — more women do come out in peaceful areas, but where caste/communal polarisation exists, the fear factor holds t hem back,” said Dr Vibhuti Patel, head of department, economics, SNDT University, and women’s studies expert.
Women’s turnout is considered a key marker of their participation in the political process.
The Election Commission hoped that its drive to raise voter awareness, including t hat of women, t hrough Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation earlier this year may close the gender electoral gap.
“We have tried to close the gender gap, but it will take more than an election,” said an official, requesting anonymity.