Editorial: Women In LS — A Long Way To Go

Editorial: Women In LS — A Long Way To Go

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, June 07, 2024, 10:29 PM IST
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Parliament in session | File

Among the important markers that election analysts watch out for after a general election are the number of elected MPs from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, minorities, and women. The last mentioned has a special significance this time around given that the Bill granting 33% reservation in Parliament and state assemblies was finally passed last year. The legislation was hanging fire for more than three decades but the passage did not mean that it would come into effect in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Nevertheless, the public discourse around the issue meant that political parties as well as people were more aware of and sensitive to the issue. It was, naturally, expected that parties would strive to reach the magic mark of women being one-third contestants.

As it turned out, of the total 8,360 candidates who contested the 2024 elections, only around 10% were women — an increase from 3% in 1957 but hardly near the 33% target. In the BJP, the largest party, approximately 16% candidates were women while the Congress fielded about 13%. In all, India has 74 women MPs in the LS, making 13.6% — significantly below the mark. After the BJP and the Congress, it is the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party which have women MPs in the House. If this election has shown anything it is that after 70 years of parliamentary democracy, the number of women MPs increased only marginally from 4.4% that it was in 1952. India lags behind countries such as the UK, the US and South Africa which have 30-46% women legislators.

The work ahead is difficult, complex and goes well beyond the legislation that will come into effect in the 2029 LS election. A start has to be made by all political parties to induct and nurture women politicians, not merely proxy for the men in the party but women who come from varied fields and can embrace politics on their own strength, and groom them for the opportunity ahead. The work has to begin now; parties must walk the talk.

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