Why women’s representation in politics matters | HT Editorial
Political parties want the ‘woman vote’ but don’t want to share power with themUpdated: Oct 17, 2019 19:52 IST
There is now substantial political literature to suggest that having women political representatives aids the case of gender equality. Not only is this because women deserve equal rights of representation as men, but because they are sensitive to issues which, at best, either escape the attention of male representatives, or, at worst, are ignored deliberately due to embedded patriarchal structures. This was the rationale behind the Women’s Reservation Bill, providing 33% reservation to women in legislative bodies, which has been languishing in Parliament for decades. It was also the rationale behind the reservations for women in Panchayat bodies. And while the initial trend may have been male political leaders ruling by proxy, the Panchayat experience has enabled women to assert themselves, raise local issues, get groomed as leaders and get empowered.
That is why it is disappointing to see that political parties, despite paying lip service to the issue, still do not put up an adequate — let alone equal — number of women candidates in elections. Take Haryana, where gender inequality is rampant, most visibly manifested in the skewed sex ratio. The Hindustan Times reported on Thursday that in the upcoming state assembly polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded 12 women candidates in 90 seats; the Congress has put up 10 candidates; the Indian National Lok Dal has 15 candidates; and there are only 23 independent women candidates out of 343. Men make up over 90% of the candidates. Parties have increasingly begun to recognise the power of the “woman vote”, but it is not translating into giving them space in the power structure.
It is indeed a positive that the 16th Lok Sabha has the highest number of women Members of Parliament, but it remains way below what their demographic share would dictate. The state assembly polls indicate that the battle for women representation will be long and hard.