Only 11% women MPs in LS
India Ranked A Poor 108th In Gender Parity In Parliament
Lubna Kably TNN
Women have a poor 11% representation in India’s Lok Sabha and 10.6% in Rajya Sabha, making India 108th among 188 countries covered in the annual analysis on statistics of women MPs conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The global average of women in Parliaments, as of November 2013, stood at 21.3% — a slight increase over the preceding two years (20.3% and 19.5%). IPU is an international organisation of Parliaments and works for establishment of representative democracies. Countries are ranked by IPU based on percentage of women in the lower house. The top three in the 2013 analysis were Rwanda, Andorra and Cuba.
India fared poorly even when compared with her immediate neighbours (see graphic). Here, Nepal, ranked at 24, led the pack, followed by China (55) and Pakistan (66).
With elections around the corner in India, several women’s groups have come together under the umbrella of ‘Time for 33% Coalition’ and are seeking passage of the women’s reservation bill during the winter session that begins shortly. The bill proposes to reserve 33% seats for women in Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. Various similar bills, introduced since 1996, have lapsed.
According to Election Commission statistics, for the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies, the number of elected women increased from 49 in 1999 to 59 in 2009, with 11% representation in the lower house. In 2009, the number of elected women over total seats was maximum in Punjab (30.8%), followed by Madhya Pradesh (20.7%) and Haryana (20.0%). Against this, the number of women voters in India has risen from 44.3% to 45.8%.
“The patriarchal hereditary nature of Indian politics requires intervention at many levels and in many forms. A 33% reservation, which is the minimum mass required, will be one of the most significant changes in helping women attain their right to participate in Indian democracy not just as voters but also as leaders,” stated Amitabh Kumar of Centre for Social Research.
“Even in highly patriarchal societies such as Afghanistan, a reservation mechanism is in place. Appropriate representation of women is possible only through a quota regime, and this in turn will bring more transparency, efficiency and even decency in Parliament’s functioning,” said Vibhuti Patel, economist and president of Women Power Connect.
Many EU countries such as Belgium, France and Germany, besides others — Egypt, Iraq, and Nepal — legislatively provide for quotas for women candidates. Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China and Pakistan reserve seats for women in Parliament. Voluntary quotas adopted by political parties exist in countries such as Australia, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands and the UK.
“Although quotas remain contentious in some parts of the world, they remain key to progress on a fundamental component of democracy — gender parity in political representation,” stated IPU secretary general Anders B Johnsson.
Quotas need to be ambitious and women candidates should be placed in winnable positions on party lists, the IPU added. In the Indian scenario, where the ratio of women candidates winning their contested seats is not yet optimal, this is a suggestion that needs to be followed.
Source:::: The Times of India, 26-11-2013, p.06, http://epaper.timesofindia.com/Default/Scripting/ArticleWin.asp?From=Archive&Source=Page&Skin=TOINEW&BaseHref=TOIM/2013/11/26&PageLabel=9&EntityId=Ar00900&ViewMode=HTML