India’s political fate for the next five years is sealed. The BJP will retain power at the centre, that too with a vast and clear majority. The one thing we must all be proud of, no matter if the party we voted for wins or loses, is that this mandate belongs to women voters, as much as it does to male voters. Women turned up at polling booths to exercise their right to vote like never before, thus making what they want, very clear. [Full coverage of Women and the Vote here]
- The 2019 general elections saw equal percentage of participation among male and female voters.
- Thus the mandate which emerges today belongs to women as much as it does to men.
- In a way these elections have empowered women of India.
- Their voice and needs have gained national importance and this was long overdue.
The data from Election Commission says that male and female voter turnout for the general elections was equal; standing at 67 percent. Breaking the record of the 2014 elections, the overall voter turnout stands at 67.11 %, as compared to 66.40% previously. In fact, the turnout of women exceeded that of men in at least nine states including Bihar, Odisha and West Bengal, and Union Territories. This data combined with the election result matter, because they show rise in political awareness among women of India.
For decades women have been additional yet neglected vote bank in this electorate. Bound by customs which often forbade them for stepping out of the house, even for something as crucial as casting their vote, and beliefs that politics is something that only men must worry about, women voters in India ended up falling short of turning in equal proportions to men. While the results may seem one sided now, when the campaigning was in full swing, it felt like a close to almost all political parties and thus they turned their attention towards the untapped potential of women vote bank.
More than the political promises, it is the elections themselves which have empowered women in this country.
All the encouragement that women received combined with gradual dissent from conservative ideologies ensured rise in political awareness among women in India. They were encouraged to go and vote, they were told that their vote mattered and that it was their duty, just like men, to decide the political fate of this country. Not just this, promises of women empowerment became the flavour of campaigning season. It featured prominently in election manifestos of all leading parties. Which meant that from BJP to Congress, parties left no stoned unturned in “luring” female voters. This special attention only fueled their confidence, as women voters realised that the solution to all their problems, from safety to maternity leaves etc was in their own hands.
This mandate belongs to women voters, as much as it does to male voters.
Thus more than the political promises, it is the elections themselves which have empowered women in this country. They have an opinion and a vote that matters. They feel wanted and finally understand that voting is both their right and a civic duty which will incur them large consequences that may affect their own future and that of those they love. Their voices have finally gained national importance and this was long overdue.
However, this is just the beginning. The party voted into power will have to live up to its promises, and in fact deliver more than that. While equal participation of women in voting signifies beginning of a new era for the electorate, we must ensure that patriarchal practices which kept them from doing so till now are not given a chance to raise their head again. We sincerely hope that the mandate passed on equal footing carries the cause of women empowerment in this country only further.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.
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