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Women Have Representation In The Indian Parliament, But Something Is Missing

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We always talk about giving equal rights and position to women in society but never thinking of whether women are enjoying it at all. In the 20th-century, women are enjoying more legal, social, and economic rights, yet there is emptiness. Women are still considered to be underprivileged, expected to take care of their families, their personal life, children, and official chores efficiently without any difficulties.

They are more efficient in multitasking, but sometimes it feels like women are burdened with several other responsibilities due to which they often forget to live their own lives. Undoubtedly women might do all these things with lots of happiness. It is high time for all not just to talk or make written rules to give equal rights to them but also change our mentality to respect every woman in our society.

Let Us Discuss Women’s Role In Other Nations’ Politics

Spain has Europe’s largest share of women in Parliament.

After 2018, we saw a historical rise in the number of women participation in the House of Senate of US, we saw six women announcing their candidacy for the presidential election named as Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Senator Kristen Gillibrand, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Elizabeth Warren & Marianne Williamson, all of them coming from different backgrounds but all are fighting for equality and women’s rights.

It can be considered a good start for the USA, which ranks 75th out of 193 countries for women representation in parliament. Likewise, recently the UK also witnessed the highest number of female members participated and elected to the parliament in their general election. Finland also recently welcomed its woman prime minister. Some other countries like Brazil, Bolivia, and Mexico also saw the highest rise in female candidates running for the general election.

In India, too, we see a decent rise in women participation in the 2019 general election, and 78 women legislators got the chance to represent in the Indian parliament. Despite the increasing number of women participating in the general election according to the SDG gender index, India still has a long way to become gender-equal when it comes to political representation. 

Talking about the countries with the highest number of women representing in the parliament, one thing we find in common is the factor of reservation. It helped all these countries to acquire a higher number of female participation. Let’s take the example of Rwanda, a country with 33% of reservation for female candidates, who achieved women’s domination in their national legislature.

Likewise, countries like Mexico, South Africa, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, etc. also implemented the same reservation policy or quotas that women are elected in their respective parliaments. Similarly, Bolivia also constructed a new electoral law in which they made it compulsory to have 50% of female candidates on every political party list. 

Argentina is the first country to adopt the world’s first gender quota law in 1991, mandating every political party to nominate 30% of its electable position on their candidate lists as women. However, the research paper of Tiffany Barnes titled ‘Women’s representation in the Argentine national and sub-national government’ showed that the country is still fighting with problems related to gender inequality, domestic violence and sexual harassment. This is one of the main reasons for inequality based on gender because female parliamentarians have limited powers and are most underrepresented. This scenario is pretty similar in many countries.

Representation In Indian Parliament

Representation In Indian Parliament
In the last general election, a 71 years old lady named Pramila Bisoyi won the election and became the MP from Odisha.

In every election, we have seen positive growth in the number of female members in politics. And in the 17th Lok sabha election, India has seen many women MPs occupy the centre stage, such as 78 women MPs being elected out of a total of 700 plus female candidates who contested in the election of 2019.

Out of which, 43% of women are coming from a political background, and many others are contesting as independent candidates and breaking the age-old norms of our Indian society.

In the last general election, a 71 years old lady named Pramila Bisoyi won the election and became the MP from Odisha. She belongs to an economically lower class, but now she is representing their constituency in the parliament.

Similarly, Remya Haridas, a 32year MP from Kerala, is the second-ever Dalit MP, breaking the age-old thinking of our society. In Bihar, Ritu Jaiswal, an educated mukhiya in Singhvahini village, created another example of women entering into politics without any political background.

But these are only a few success stories of women representation in politics; India still has a long way to go to achieve equal women representation in the parliament. Because when it comes to their involvement and role in decision making, the power still lies in the hands of men.

After creating the reservation quota system, there are still 176 male members in comparison to 78 female representatives in Lok Sabha and 20 out of 240 male MPs in Rajya Sabha.

The 78 seats allotted to female candidates in Lok Sabha represents 14 % out of 542 seats and don’t even fulfil the criteria of 33% of women representation in the parliament. The numbers of MLAs are even worse. Out of these 78 MPs, only 3MPs got the Cabinet Ministerial position.  

Many prominent national parties like INC and BJP are selling the idea of reservation for women on paper but failed to preach on their own words when it came to giving women legislators more power. Regional parties with women leaders like TMC, BSP, & AIADMK; under the leadership of late Jayalalitha have failed to field more women. The images of state assemblies are gloomier than the parliament.  

The northeastern states, where we see the involvement of more women in the work front and market places compared to any other parts of India, have the same scenario. The states like Mizoram and Nagaland have zero female members in their assemblies.

In our constitution, the 73rd amendment act gave 33% reservation to women with an impressive 46% share in the country’s panchayats. Does it erect a question in our mind that is this reservation and the huge extent of involvement of women in politics creating empowerment for women?

No, there are several challenges in the way to provide equality to women, such as the proxy panchayat members. We all know that women members of panchayats are used as proxies in the name of the male member of their families.

Women are so habituated with our patriarchal and male-dominated society that they don’t find it odd upon getting deprived of, using the power and rights of their positions. They have forgotten their ability to fight for survival. Along with this, criminalization and investment of enormous money in the election also restrict a woman from entering the field of politics.

Let Women Get ‘Really’ Involved In The Political Sphere

Representation In Indian Parliament
Equitable distribution of power and resources is equally important to empower women in the field of politics. And women themselves have to work for their empowerment.

According to NCRB, the number of cases related to the crime against women has been increasing in the last three years. Uttar Pradesh is on the top of the list with 56,011 cases, followed by Maharashtra with 31,979 cases, West Bengal at 30,200 cases. Fun facts, all these states have the most number of female MPs elected. And this represents that despite being elected, women are still deprived of their power and are still invisible as more male MPs occupy most of the power and party positions.

Party leaders who construct the party agenda always give more power to male members or to those who are more visible in the public sphere, as their success and failure depend on the party performance or even the caste they belong. All these factors restrict their growth and presence or visibility in the dominant male society. 

But now the regional political parties are willing to give more representation to women in parliament and assemblies; for example; the TMC has given almost 40% reservation quota to women in West Bengal likewise, Odisha also passed the bill for approving the 33% reservation for female candidates in state assemblies.

While the concept of reservation is helping women candidates enter the parliament, all these discriminations between men and women and gender inequality are creating hindrance in their ways. Along with reservation, they should be provided with equal opportunity, freedom, and liberty to work and to make decisions without any pressure.

Equitable distribution of power and resources is equally important to empower women in the field of politics. And women themselves have to work for their empowerment.

The system of the reservation should not only be considered a rule or mere paperwork; it should be implemented properly with the actual involvement of women in the political sphere of our nation. The government has implemented reservation bills for many years. Still, now it requires being the main topic of discussion, and people should start respecting and believing in the ability and strength of women. The woman who can run her family smoothly can easily control the administrative and legislative problems and issues of the society.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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