Indian women demand greater Lok Sabha representation
Female candidates in the 2009 elections represented only about 7% of the slate—even though women accounted for 47% of voter turnout.
Political parties in India try to woo female voters, but women say for upcoming Lok Sabha elections, their gender is far too under-represented among candidates.
Still, women may have a significant impact on election results. The 16th Lok Sabha elections will start April 7th and end May 7th.
“I am excited and looking forward for the day of election as I have the vote and want to cast it for the first time. I know my vote has tremendous power and can make a huge change in building my future, but unfortunately there are few female parliamentary candidates,” Delhi University graduate Sachika Pathak told Khabar South Asia.
“I believe most students are aware of the influence of the vote and the majority of young girls will cast their vote”, she added, “but male parliamentarians are unable to understand our problems.”
According to the Election Commission of India, female voters outnumbered men in 16 of 20 state assembly elections since 2010. Both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar– which represent 80 and 40 Lok Sabha seats respectively– have recorded a female voting majority.
But the dominance of males in politics and male chauvinism in general, remains a challenge. While voter turnout in the 2009 Lok Sabha election was high among women– 342.2 million women voters and 374.7 million male voters– male candidates still represented 93.1% of the slate, according to commission statistics.
“Vote for change”
“We are discriminated at all levels, whether it is employment or other social obligations. Even when it comes to voting, we are asked to follow the dictates of our elders, and the vote becomes meaningless for us,” Komal Bajwa, a psychology student at Mata Sundri College for Women, told Khabar. “However, the fact is our vote can change our lives.
“I will vote for change and will persuade my friends and colleagues to vote and change the atmosphere of this country.”
As Supreme Court lawyer Vasundhara Pathak put it, women’s issues will improve only when more females are elected to Parliament.
“Political organisations are not giving adequate representation to women in India,” she told Khabar.
Delhi Policy Group Director General Radha Kumar agreed.
“It is shocking that we even lag behind our neighbours like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh in giving women representation in Parliament. The gender bias is still deeply rooted in our mentality. Women in India have to move ahead, as male supremacy continues to supersede in every field of life,” Kumar told Khabar.
Parliamentary quotas for women?
Activists say that male parliamentarians are afraid to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, which would reserve 33% of all Lok Sabha seats for female members of parliament.
“Unfortunately in our society, male dominance keeps women away from politics. The condition of rural areas is worse than urban, where women hardly have any say,” Jamia Millia Islamia University Geography Professor Haseena Hashia told Khabar.
“Why are they scared of passing the Women’s Reservation Bill? Heavens will not fall by giving (women) their due right – it proves that men want their domination everywhere.”
For her part, Bhartiya Muslims Mahila Andolan co-founder Noorjehan Safia Niaz said that women should fight to end male dominance in society, particularly in politics.
“We are not at all treated equally and the women’s bill is still a far-away dream, which we believe political parties are not going to pass in Parliament, as they know it will end their supremacy over women,” she told Khabar.