Break the deadlock: Increase women’s representation

Source: This post is based on the article “Break the deadlock: Increase women’s representation” published in The Times of India on 31st August 2021.

Relevance: Reservation for women in the legislature.

Synopsis: Providing reservations for women in a way that makes the parliament gender equal.

Context:

With women performing excellently in sports, cinema & other fields, it is time that women get adequate representation in the legislature also. Despite consensus across all major political parties on increasing the representation of women in political parties, their numbers in the legislature are still disappointing.

Status of women in legislation:

In terms of numbers, presently there are less than 15% women legislatures in most state assemblies and Parliament. Most of these legislators happen to be from urban areas where there is good access to education. There are certain exceptions to this general rule, like:

  • Women coming from political families and
  • Women who received recognition in other fields (mostly films, TV)
What are the roadblocks which prevent women’s entry into politics?
  1. Reservation Policy: There is less support from male legislators because of the process of how reservation policy works.
    • If we decide 30% of seats to be reserved for women, then women alone are allowed to contest from those seats. This is not acceptable to many, as they may take decades to build their reputation in their constituency. If a constituency suddenly becomes reserved, it would bar them from contesting.
  2. Followers: Political parties and leaders take years, even generations, to build followers. They would not like to hand over their constituency to anyone, as they are apprehensive of losing their followers. So, despite verbal support, political parties are not keen on reservation for women in the legislature.
What can be done to improve women legislators?

Given the reluctance of the political parties, following approaches we can adopt

  • Introduce phased increase in women representation e.g. 20% in 2024 elections, 25% in 2029 elections
  • Instead of constituency-wise reservation, India can ask the recognised political parties to reserve a required percentage of seats for women.
  • India can also request all political parties to field the mandated percentage of women candidates in those constituencies where they have either won or have been runner-ups in previous elections.
How would the above approaches prove beneficial?
  • With no particular constituency reserved for women, the fear of losing the male seats will be eliminated.
  • Unlike sports, where men and women compete separately, here they can compete with each other. And as the process would be gradual, and would provide parties enough time to nurture the women candidates.

Thus, through this approach, the deadlock can be broken, and we can pave the way for increasing women’s reservation in the Parliament.

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