WOMEN SHOULD GET PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION IN POLITICS
The makers of modern India recognize gender-based discrimination and patriarchy in our social life and affirm to ensure gender justice through various provisions in the Constitution such as prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth.
After 65 years of independence, still women’s participation in socio-political and socio-economic sphere remains a distance dream. For a number of reasons, gender-based violence in public and private sphere has been increasing and it is a matter of grave concern for all of us as a national issue. The participation of women in executive and judiciary remains under represented but the participation of women in governance is very vital to address the concerns of women through policy and legislations. The voice of women is almost muted with insignificant presence in Parliament and State Assemblies of our county. The women should have proportional representation in politics and especially in Parliament and State Assemblies. In a representative democracy, people from all segments should be proportionately represented. The 16th Lok Sabha with 543 MPs has only 12 per cent of women members which is the highest number in the history of Parliament. The Rajya Sabha also has the same percentage of women member. The national average of women representation across all the State Assemblies in India is only 9 per cent. Even there are States and union territories without women member in their Legislative Assembly and several States have no women Minister. The inter Parliamentary union ranked India at 105th position out of 190 countries having women representation in Parliament. Even, India is below global average of 22 per cent as on May 2015.
Women constitute only 22 per cent of the members of Parliament around the world as reported by inter parliamentarian union. India is behind countries like Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh in terms of women representation in Parliament. Globally, the change process of women representation has been very slow which will take a long time in achieving equal representation if some major State intervention will not take place.
There are countries like Rwanda and Bolivia which have more than 50 per cent of women representation and about ten countries, such as France, Sweden, Nederland, Norway, South Africa, Cuba, Finland and Egypt have more than 40 per cent of women in parliament. Rwanda has the highest number of women parliamentarians having 63.8 per cent of the seats in the Lower House. It is because many of these countries have provided reservation to women and many political parties in Europe have voluntarily made provision of women representation in political sphere in a number of ways including party leadership and representation in governance. The countries such as Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh have made provision of reservation for women in national parliament. As a result, these counties have more than 20 per cent women representation. It is also observed that countries with Proportional Representation (PR) as electoral system, women hold better representation, almost more than one fourth of the seats, and also shows an increase in representation of women because of the importance of party in the electoral system.
Political scholars give emphasis on electoral system to increase women representation. The countries with First Past The Post (FPTP) system such as India have shown under representation of women where electoral system is being recognized as one of the factors that restricts proportional women representation.
The ten countries such as Sweden ,Denmark , Finland ,South Africa , Norway , Germany ,New Zealand ,Nederland and Mozambique with the highest percentage of women in parliament have PR electoral system.
Worldwide it is understood that women reservation is not discrimination against men rather it is a positive intervention and means towards achieving equality. About 85 countries in the world have gender-based quota system to ensure women representation in governance. The status of women representation in BRICS countries is also very discouraging with exception of South Africa and Asia below America and Europe in terms of women representation.
India being a country of diversity with unequal social structure and continued discrimination based on caste and gender the issues of women representation need to be addressed in the governance. The caste discriminated communities such as SCs and STs have been protected under provisions of reservation in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
Similarly, there should be reservation for women and within women reservation to ensure social diversity , representation of women of marginalized communities such as SC, ST, OBC and minority should be inbuilt by inclusion of women of such social groups. Because it is a fact that women of marginalized groups suffer the triple
discrimination based on caste, class and gender, still they are struggling for survival against all kinds of inequalities being practiced by dominant social groups. Take the example of Odisha where SCs ,STs,OBCs and minority constitute a majority of the population, but the women of these social groups are not visible in policy making and legislative bodies .There are women of most backward tribal groups in interior parts who are even not able to come to a minimum level of participation .The literacy rate of Bonda women is 2 per cent only and they suffer all forms of exploitation and discrimination in everyday life.
So how to ensure the representation of such primitive tribal communities who are suffering with extreme poverty and illiteracy and continued internal colonization of dominant caste and class of people. The women of such marginalized groups are not part of the policy decisions about their life and livelihood. The under representation of women in governance is one of the major reasons of growing violence against women and many cases of atrocities, domestic violence, rape ,murder and physical assault, exploitation of labour ,denial of wage and sexual harassment at workplace are not getting registered by policy and not even reported by local media and discussed in our Parliament and Assemblies . The Odisha Legislative Assembly has only 11 women members which is just 7 per cent of the total members. Out of the 11, five are SCs and STs because of reservation for SCs and STs. Since inception of State Assembly in 1936 only 66 women have entered the Assembly, 12 to Rajya Sabha and seven to Lok Sabaha from the State.
Women of Odisha, especially the marginalized groups, are almost invisible in matter of public affairs.
The reproductive role of women, responsibility for family and children, conservative religion and cultural practices, gender and caste-based discrimination, poor economic status, dependency on male and above all, the attitude of male-dominated upper class and caste political parties are the major challenges before women representation.
The convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW) speaks about the principles of equal opportunities in public life which has been rectified by 163 nations .The UN Beijing platform for action aims for 50:50 gender balance in all areas of society and advocating for full participation of women on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in decision making process and access to power which are fundamental towards achievement of equality, development and peace.
The Panchyatraj institutions in the country are proportionately represented by women because of women reservation by 73rd amendment to the Constitution in 1992 reserving 33 per cent of seats in Panchyatraj institutions for women. It has impacted well over the local self governance. Rural women including women of SC, ST and OBC have been participating in large number in the local governance. It is unfortunate that the Women Reservation Bill introduced in Parliament in 1996 for 33 per cent reservation has not yet been passed in spite of support by major ruling parties. It is expected that the BJP- led NDA will make it possible in the near future to make history of women representation in governance. There is also a need to amend
The Representation of the Peoples Act 1951 to bring the PR electoral system in place of present FPTP electoral system in practice. Therefore, it is being agreed by many political parties that India should adopt PR system along with women reservation to ensure proportional representation of women in Parliament and State Assemblies towards building inclusive democracy.