2019 is an important year for Indian politics. This time too people gave their mandate in favor of BJP. The Modi wave swept the nation again and left the opposition parties more crippled than ever. But this is not only why the 2019 election results are significant. This year saw a record 14% of elected women representatives. It is said to be the first time that so many women have made it into the parliament. Though the real question which arises here is that in a country comprising of 48.5% women (as per 2011 census), whether a mere 14% representation in Parliament something to celebrate about? Or should we feel ashamed for lagging behind significantly?
Politics has never been traditionally considered a field for women and it clearly shows. Historically, most women who have made it in politics are from families with a political background and even that number is not really much. With only a handful of women in politics, it is even fewer women who make it into the parliament.
The women representation in parliament was stuck at 8% to 9%. Then things changed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with this number rising up to 12% and then again a rise was seen in 2019 with 14% women representation. No doubt a record has been made but how can we keep on gushing over the fact that the people’s parliament still fails to represent half of the nation’s people?
As per a list compiled by Inter-Parliamentary Union, India stands at 153rd rank out of 190 nations with respect to percentage of women in the lower house of world parliaments. Rwanda ranks first with 61% women representatives. The UK and the US consist of 32% and 23% women representatives respectively. The surprising winner here for many of us is clearly Pakistan with 20% participation of women.
Many arguments are put forth every time a debate or a discussion takes place regarding the importance of women in parliament. These arguments range from gender equality to the role women can play in the betterment of policy making. But it is 2019. Why do we still need justifiable reasons to enable women find their place inside our nation’s parliament?
We the people of India gave ourselves a constitution which guarantees justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. The government is made of, by and for us, the people. The parliament represents the people of this nation. And women are people too. Therefore by virtue of being the people, it is their right to be represented in the parliament. They are the citizens of this country too and their participation should be taken seriously as it is the basic feature of a democracy.
Often the route suggested for adequate representation for women is reservation. Although reservation will come in handy in pumping up the numbers, what it cannot bring is a change in attitudes. Because no amount of reservation can stop men like Rahul Gandhi from questioning the credibility of the defense minister merely because the post was held by a she rather than a he. Because reservation won’t change the regressive patriarchal notions which view women as weak and stupid.
Reservation will succeed in placing women in posts of power and yet it won’t empower women. Because there is a difference between creating powerful women and empowering women. And the need of the hour is empowerment. Instead of aiming for easy solutions, women should be encouraged to participate in politics and in nation building because like men, they are a part of this nation too. Women are people too.