Women missing in 2014 Lok Sabha elections
Is election in India primarily about men with women only offering a symbolic presence?
Alas, this is the tale of 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Not that it was any better earlier.
Despite loud talk of women empowerment by major political parties, women participation in Lok Sabha polls hasn’t even increased by one% this time. During 2009 Lok Sabha polls 6.89% women candidates participated and this time so far in first four phases the figure has only marginally increased to 7.83%. It is unlikely that the trend would get reversed since major parties have already announced majority of their candidates.
There as many as six states where not even a single woman candidate contested during first four poll phases covering 111 constituencies. Out of 23 states that went to polls during the period, states that went totally unrepresented included Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Lakshadweep and Sikkim. Chandigarh, however, reversed the general trend posting 29.41% candidates. On the contrary, Assam recorded the lowest women representation of 3.7% in first phase of the polls.
Major states like Haryana (4.78%), Odisha (5.10%), Maharashtra (7.46%), Madhya Pradesh (7.63%), Delhi (8%), Kerala (8.92%) and Uttar Pradesh (9.52%) have also fared poorly with low women presence. The mainline political parties have been poor in fielding female contestants. In first four phases, while Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fielded 18 female leaders, Congress and BJP followed with 10 and six candidates espectively.
Further, the notable female leaders nominated by AAP for the first four phases included: journalist turned politician Shazia Ilmi, actor Gul Panag and former cabinet minister in Delhi govt. Rakhi Birla. The Congress list also featured prominent names like Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar and actor Nagma. In saffron party list of candidates, actor Kirron Kher and lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi tried their luck out in first four phases.
Women member representation in Lok Sabha has been on the rise but it’s still ever not been more than 11%. 15th Lok Sabha had 10.86% of women parliamentarians with 13th Lok Sabha too being close to it in having 9.02% of women members.
Interestingly, the lowest number of women elected to the Lok Sabha was in 1977 when only 19 women reached the Lower House, which was only 3.50% of the total Lok Sabha seats.
As far as women contestants is concerned, the highest number of women aspirants, 599, were in fray in 1996, followed by 556 women candidates in 2009 and 355 in 2004. It was in 1980 for the 7th Lok Sabha when the women contestants crossed the mark of 100 as prior to that the number of women contestants had always been below 100.
Women participation in contesting election has been much lower as compared to men. Up till Ninth General election, women participation was 30 times lesser than men, though Tenth Lok Sabha onwards the participation improved.