Time to take women voters seriously

Ammu Joseph

Not BJP, not Congress:  Women voters are real winners today,” claimed the headline of a December 12 article that highlights the fact that female voters outnumbered men in a significant number of constituencies in the recent elections to the state assemblies of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram.

According to Richard Mahapatra, “Women are the new-found constituency of politicians for sure-shot victory.  In a country where woman representatives are only a few, who too are accepted with contempt, they have become a force that is going to redefine electoral politics of the world’s largest democracy.”

Image from CSE article

What can explain this trend and what is its significance?  Are women now seen as a political constituency worth taking seriously?  Will the growing power of the female vote make political parties pay due attention to the demand for a more gender balanced Parliament and more representative Legislative Assemblies?

In an earlier, related article, headlined “It will take 55 years to have one-third women representatives in Parliament,” Mahapatra observed that “notwithstanding this much desirable electoral trend, what surprises us is the diametrically opposite presence of women lawmakers—hardly 7 to 8 per cent in state assemblies and around 11 per cent in Parliament.”

As he points out, in 56 years, India’s Lok Sabha has not been able to double its tally of elected women representatives. In 1962, women constituted just 6 per cent of the members of the lower house of Parliament;  in 2014, women made up just 11 per cent of all members.

Judging by the poor representation of women among candidates during the recent state elections (see blog posts below on the situation in Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, for example), political parties are still not inclined to field women for election.  However, as this November 2018 article by Kundan Pandey, headlined “Political parties try to bank on women’s electoral strength,” points out, they are trying hard to woo women voters by making a range of promises in separate manifestos/vision documents and offering goods and services, not to mention loans, to persuade women to vote for them.

What will it take for parties to be convinced that equal representation is a more persuasive way to assure women that they matter as citizens?

 

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Tamil Nadu’s Women Leaders Live, Work In The Shadow Of Violence

By Raksha Kumar
India Spend is publishing a three-part series on women in grassroots governance in Tamil Nadu. This is the first story, which looks at how women leaders are intimidated through violence. The article has stories of women who have been killed for being efficient administrators.
The piece takes into account important cross sections of caste and age. “Dalit women leaders are particularly prone to abuse, threats and physical attacks. This is particularly true of those with no wealth or assets and are dependent on employment on farms owned by dominant castes,” it says.
A good precursor to the next piece on why women don’t move up the political ladder in Tamil Nadu, this story has laid down the foundational problems women leaders face at the grassroots. 
Read the full story here: