India doesn’t come at the top of the list really, when it comes to women’s rights. A day doesn’t go by when you don’t hear about some or the other crime committed against women. Sexism runs so deep in our systems that we’ve come to ignore it and move on from now. No matter how much you try to brush it under the carpet with justifications such as ‘Indian culture respects women’ or ‘we worship women’ and so on, women have been facing and will continue to face discrimination in almost everything we do, be it at home, while working in any profession, even in politics.
It is encouraging to see that more and more women want to be involved in the decision making process when it comes to our leaders.
BIT OF HISTORY
Voting, for women in India, began with India’s freedom in 1947. But while we were allowed to vote when it first started in India for the first general elections, women’s representation in politics was still a long road from home. Today, the situation does not seem any better. Although the turnout of female voters, in many constituencies, is expected to surpass men in the 2019 elections, the number of women in the parliament and lower bodies, lingers way below the world’s average. Despite the increasing number of women coming out to vote, their voice is still found to be lacking.
In India, a mere 11% of the seats in in the two houses are occupied by women. Out of the total 788 there were only 89 seats held by women after the 2014 elections. With a global average of about 24%, India not only lags behind the developed world, but it falls behind many developing countries too. To give you a perspective, while women in sub-Sahara Africa occupy over 23% of the seats, women in even the conservative and more patriarchal societies of the MENA region enjoy an over 18% of representation in the parliament.
In India, a mere 11% of the seats in in the two houses are occupied by women. Out of the total 788 there were only 89 seats held by women after the 2014 elections.
Moreover, as women fight for equal opportunities in both the houses, the voting scene shows a slightly better but improvable picture. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 8 out of the 29 states of India saw more number of women voting than men. These states, mostly in the southern part of India, only reflect the long and harsh road to better representation that the rest of the country needs to work on.
WOMEN IN THE SPEECHES?
While the focus of the 2014 general elections were middle class voters, this year the highlight of the speeches have been the farmers and their needs. Besides the usual bickering between party leaders about who’s more corrupt (they both are equally, to be honest) or who deserves the win more, women once again have been left out of the problem solutions. None of the political parties have made any major try to pursue women voters. More than often, despite being eligible, women, both rural and surprisingly urban as well, have been reluctant to come out and vote. Factors such as lack of freedom of movement and traditional practices have, in the past, restricted women to actively take part in public life.
More than often, despite being eligible, women, both rural and surprisingly urban as well, have been reluctant to come out and vote.
Today, lack of good options, and ignorance towards women’s needs are some of the major factors demotivating women to go out and vote. Nevertheless, it is promising to see that more and more women and realising their rights with every subsequent election. The number of female votes continues to increase with every survey and it is reassuring to the upcoming generations of voters to see those older to them participate actively in the voting process.
We might be far from the ideal representation number when it comes to female politicians, but it is encouraging to see that more and more women want to be involved in the decision making process when it comes to our leaders. After all, women all over the world have fought for this right that seems so basic now. Voting is much more than simply choosing who makes the best arguments. It is choosing the person who is going to run the country for us. We might not have the best candidates up there asking for our votes. But when you do not vote, because you think you don’t have any good options, you are giving up your right to choose – a right that was hard earned, after thousands of women marched down streets and revolted for equal opportunities long ago.
It took us a long time to get ourselves into the polling booths. Let’s hope it doesn’t take as long to get equal representation in the parliament.
Nandini Arora, part of Safecity's #WritersMovement, works as a Brand Manager in a Software Development company in New Delhi. Although married to numbers, her first love has always been books and writing. She regularly writes about issues such as women’s safety, Feminism, LGBTQ etc. The views expressed are author's own.