India lags behind in women’s empowerment

India will continue to lag behind many countries including African nations in empowering women even after the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in both Houses of Parliament.
The Bill providing 33 per cent reservation in the Indian Parliament and State Sssemblies passed the Upper House on March 9.
Rwanda, South Africa and Cuba are ahead of India when it comes to the participation of women in politcs.
Rwanda, which is a ‘backward country’, has women’s representation of 56.3 per cent in the lower house.
India can ensure only 33.3 per cent reservation after the bill is cleared in the Lok Sabha and respective State Assemblies.
As per the data of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), India stands at 99th place among the 187 countries as far as representation of women in the respective legislatures is concerned.
The IPU is an international organisation that works for promoting democracy, pe-ace and co-operation among people in the world.
In Rwanda, there are 45 women members out of 80 in the lower house.
Sweden is in second place with 46.4 per cent. South Africa is also witnessing woman power with 44.5 per cent women in Parliament.
Cuba has 43.2 per cent women parliamentarians and a small country like Iceland is ahead of other countries with 42.9 per cent.
In comparison, a huge country like India is much behind other countries, including its neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan.
At present, India has only 49 women representatives in the 545 member Lok Sabha, and 21 female MPs in the 256-member Rajya Sabha.
The representation of women in successive Lok Sabhas has remained bet-ween 19 and 49.
The Thirteenth Lok Sabha had a maximum of 49 members representing 9.02 per cent of the total strength of the lower house.
The 12th Lok Sabha had 43 women members who constituted 7.20 per cent of the total strength of the house.
Going further back, the 6th Lok Sabha had the lowest representation of women members — 19. They represented 3.4 per cent of the total strength of the lower house.
The government intends to push through the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha before the house adjourns on March 16 for a three-week break.
After the bill is cleared in the Lok Sabha, it will take at least two-and-a-half years for the completion of the process and identification of the segments which can be reserved for women politicians.
The Women’s Reservation Bill has managed to evolve a consensus among the three perpetually bickering factions in Indian politics — the
Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left Front — and hence was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday after 14 long years of being torpedoed.
It is, however, expected to face a stormy reception in the Lok Sabha where various regional parties are determined to fight it tooth and nail.
The National Election Watch (NEW), observed that a transformation will take place in Indian politics with the advent of more women over the next two decades, though initially women from political families may grab the seats.
The NEW Andhra Pradesh convener, Mr Ajay Gandhi, said: “33 per cent reservation for women would bring drastic changes in society and curtail the dominance of male politicians. The leaders of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar cannot digest the change and advancement of females in politics. That is why they are opposing the bill. As it was passed in the Rajya Sabha, there won’t be any problem in getting approval of the Lok Sabha.”
Women in politics often have to contend with the male ego that does not want to relinquish any power.
The question is how women can operate in this atmosphere of hostility.
Some 1300 women sarpanchs in Madhya Pradesh face false corruption charges levied by local politicians.
Many of them are discriminated against and insulted in villages.
Non-cooperation from officials and the intervention of husbands and family members are other hurdles women have faced in local bodies which have had women’s reservation since 1993.
Some senior leaders agree that all parties field more women merely to claim that they are encouraging them.
But in reality, the women are offered seats where their chances of winning are bleak causing very few of them to be elected to state assemblies.
Since the 33 per cent reservation includes reservation in assemblies, it will check this practice and ensure real empowerment, said the minister for roads and buildings, Ms Galla Aruna Kumari.
The minister for information and public relations, Ms Geeta Reddy, said that the induction of around 100 MLAs could be expected in the next elections.
Ms Reddy, who initiated the debate on the Women’s Reservation Bill said it was a historic bill and will pass without much difficulty in the lower house of Parliament.

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