Safecity-SheThePeople Survey Finds Out What Women Voters Want
SheThePeople.TV and Safecity conducted a joint survey to understand women’s voting process, their issues and views towards representation and reservation in parliament. One of the key findings from this survey is that 81.6% of the participating women say that they want political parties to have more female leaders.
Increased number of women first-time voters (4.35 crores) than men first-time voters (3.80 crores) for the first time in history point to the fact that diversity and inclusion in parliament is the need of the hour.
“We are completely focused on looking at all issues women deal with, with a 360 degrees angle. Representing half the population; their needs, demands and challenges should be as much on the forefront as the other half. During elections, we wanted to highlight the need for these conversations. Democracy is an agency we must exercise and seek every bit from our elected leaders that can change, impact, or transform our lives and existence. As someone said, the right way is not the easy way and it’s time we make things right for women,” said Shaili Chopra, founder of SheThePeople.TV on why this survey is a much-needed one.
A staggering 81.6% women out of 234 people who participated in the survey say that they want political parties to have more women leaders and 79.5% women feel that diversity is imperative for a country’s ruling party.
Need more women leaders
A staggering 81.6% women out of 234 people who participated in the survey say that they want political parties to have more women leaders and 79.5% women feel that diversity is imperative for a country’s ruling party. However, 17.9% still aren’t sure about diversity being a mandatory factor for the ruling party.
Of the people who took the survey, when asked if they see political parties from a gendered lens, only 22.6% agreed that they do while 56% don’t view political parties from women’s perspective.
The 16th Lok Sabha which was elected in 2014 had the highest number of women MPs at 65 out of 545 which made up to 12% representation. Only the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha changed a previously stagnant representation of under 9% recorded by Indian women MPs since Independence. The survey revealed that 41.9% women agree that progress in this regard is happening, while 26.9% disagreed and 31.2% weren’t sure of the change.
About 86.8% women thought women reservation bill will improve number of women representatives in parliament while 31.2% still feel that it wouldn’t bring the desired change.
While there are limited seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha, majority of women (90.2%) who took the survey encouraged Dalit and Adivasi women to enter politics than those who didn’t. About 86.8% women thought women reservation bill will improve number of women representatives in parliament while 31.2% still feel that it wouldn’t bring the desired change.
A large percentage of women also think that creating a women’s vote bank will help in making women’s collective voices are heard in politics. “We have to think of an inclusive society where anyone who takes power is sensitised towards gender neutrality and social equity,” said one of the respondents.
Support for women candidates
In the recently held phase four of the on-going 17the Lok Sabha elections which saw 71 constituencies going to poll, 934 candidates were in the fray comprising a bare minimum of 69 women candidates, making up for less than 10% of the total number of candidates. This has been the case in all the phases held up until now where women candidates whether nominated by national or regional political parties or contesting independently haven’t gone beyond 10%. However interestingly, the survey reveals that 73.9% people have had a female candidate contesting elections from their constituency. A whopping 57.7% people say that a female candidate has won from their constituency but 68.8% people deny voting for a woman candidate ever in their lives.
But a higher percentage of the respondents (76.1%) do believe that women politicians are well-equipped to run in general elections.
“It is sad that despite all the voices raised about representation in Parliament for women, at the level of giving tickets itself we have seen such a dismal show by parties. Women need to come together as a vote bank and insist that political parties field more women candidates, and that these candidates make it into Parliament. It is only then that women’s issues will come to the table, in terms of both policy and law making,” said Kiran Manral, Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV.
Increased awareness on women’s issues
This time as the number of women eligible voters increased and women voters even outnumbered men in several states where polling has ended, women are far more aware about raising their voices and issues. This voice has also been amplified by social media where safety, healthcare, laws, benefits, reservation are some of the concerns women have raised extensively through campaigns, programs and initiatives. The survey disclosed that almost all the respondents agreed that marital rape should be criminalised barring a miniscule 2.1% people.
About 84.2% women approved of criminalisation factor in the Triple Talaq Bill while 15.8% people felt that it should remain a civil matter. Triple Talaq as a practice was banned last year by the Supreme Court after a collective resistance towards the Islamic tradition. It allowed a husband to divorce his wife by just uttering Talaq thrice whether personally or in written form and now even through social media.
Only 25% women feel safe walking on streets, 44.6% women feel unsafe and 30.5% are neutral about it.
A popular argument that came after the government recently increased maternity leaves to 26 weeks for pregnant women was that it would make women unemployable. This is heavily refuted by women who took the survey, as 70.9% women disagreed.
“Increasing maternity leave won’t make women unemployable but it will significantly impact their growth curve in their career. Women’s representation is important, but parties and civic organisation should be incentivised to give more women opportunities by removing social barriers but keeping the meritocracy,” said another respondent of the survey.
Interestingly on the issue of safety in public spaces particularly while on the streets, only 25% women feel safe walking on streets, 44.6% women feel unsafe and 30.5% are neutral about it.
Female politicians will bring better women-centric schemes
The party manifestos this year are heavily relying on passing the women’s reservation bill from both the leading parties the Congress and the BJP. Parties today have a full-fledged section designated for women issues in their manifestos because they see women as the deciding factor in parliament. But sadly till today, it has mostly been lip service. In this scenario, more than 50% respondents believe that women politicians will bring in better women-centric schemes, a tiny but significant 7.3% disagree and over 35% are neutral to the idea.
“Electing a woman politician doesn’t seriously mean that it will help in improving condition of other women because once they are elected every politician becomes selfish and fill their own pots doing less for women,” said a respondent while yet another added, “I feel the participation of women will result in women empowerment. With a legitimate number of women in politics, women’s issues will be in the true sense centralised as well as decentralised in India. And it will be a significant day in the history of Indian politics.”
This survey was done majorly in metropolitan cities and was dominated by women. The purpose of the survey was to bring out women’s understanding of the elections and distinguish the deciding factors for them in the on-going 17the Lok Sabha election.