“As long as women of lndia do not take part in public life, there can be no salvation for the country.”
These were the words of Mahatma Gandhi, whose prayer meetings and marches drew thousands of women, putting them on the same pedestal as men. Be it under the leadership of Surya Sen or Captain Laxmi of INA, Indian women have a history revolutionary activism.
The revolutionary activism was rekindled time and again, the latest instance being that of Nirbhaya protest and the feminist agenda of safety of women. The country has recently witnessed a revolution and seen the government crumble up to the cause of safety. The fight for safety of women caught the limelight of the media and the masses, completely forgetting that it is not the only agenda that we need to bring on table. The agenda of women participation had taken a complete back seat with women reservation bill still waiting to see the light of the day. We still have only 11% women representatives in the parliament. It sure is a disappointing figure for a democracy like ours. Let us dig deeper to find out what is stopping women from entering the profession.
Politics is considered as a dirty word in the Indian society, and many would agree to it. The Indian setup of politics is characterised by mudslinging, crimes, show of muscle power, rampant corruption and the so called gunda-raj. We still are ruled by the norms where we treat women in politics as a poppy in a puddle, which is doomed to get crushed in the battle of both money and muscle.
However, women’s participation in public life which was inhibited till a few years back, has gained new roots at least in the rural areas after the 73rd constitutional amendment. We see women getting actively involved in the village politics. The success stories of one third women reservation in PRIs are many. But it stopped there. We are yet to see urban women coming out in the political arena in the same numbers as their rural folks. Is the contemporary patriarchy petrified with the experiment of the Panchayati Raj? Is the women participation at the grassroots giving nightmares to the politicians?
Today we stand at the cusp of political discourse of the country, where a fresh wave of change has set in new standards of honest and clean politics. However, it is appalling to see an extremely poor number of women being a part of this political wave. Less than 8% of women candidates have been fielded in various constituencies so far in the 16th Lok Sabha elections. In the first four phases of election, where Aam Aadmi Party has fielded 18 female candidates, Congress and BJP have lagged behind by giving tickets to 10 and 6 women respectively. These numbers show the grim reality of the fate of women in politics. If even this fails to surprise you, there is more to the shocking stats. The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Lakshadweep haven’t seen a single female candidate in the first four phases of poll covering about 111 constituencies.
A closer look at the profiles of women candidates would help us realize that while many are the scape goats of dynastic politics, a good number of them have been given tickets in constituencies with a “lost cause”. Thus, the participation of women cannot be ensured by legislative means; the parties are the platform for bringing about this change. The fundamental rights entitle women to have an access to equal opportunities in the political arena as their male counterparts.
It’s a shame that India being the world’s largest democracy ranks 105th globally in women’s representation in politics. Yes, we have managed to let our Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepali friends outdo us when it comes to women in politics. Its ironical how “women empowerment” sounds music to ears fatigued by election manifestos and is a universal retort to the volley of problems ailing the Indian society today, and how the very parties who claim to work towards empowering women have let them down much before the elections.
Lok Sabha 2014, is thus, an election already lost by the women.