Five of the 16 Lok Sabhas since Independence did not have a single Muslim woman MP. Their number has never crossed 4 in the 543 house. In IndiaSpend I look at the question of their representation.
Nuh (Haryana), New Delhi, Mumbai: She may be the head of her village, but making rotis for her extended family of 22 is still her responsibility.
Hunched over the small chulha (earthen stove) in the family house at Hussainpur village in Haryana’s Nuh district, her hands efficiently slapping a small piece of dough into a round roti, Farhuna (she uses one name), smiled when she recalled the circumstances of her marriage–and election.
It was early in 2016. The panchayat elections were around the corner and the Haryana government had recently introduced a new eligibility condition. To contest the elections, women needed to prove that they had cleared their eighth standard exams; men had to be matriculates.
That year, the seat at Hussainpur was reserved for women. The problem: No woman in her husband’s family had ever been to school.
So Farhuna’s father-in-law began looking for a bride for his son. His only condition: Education. “He didn’t even take any dowry,” grinned Farhuna, proud holder of a bachelor of arts degree.
Continue reading “Muslim women, 6.9% of the population, 0.6% in the Lok Sabha”
Women voters are turning up in record numbers, outnumbering male voters in 16 states. Yet political parties, with just two exceptions, remain loathe to field them in the elections as contestants. My deep dive for IndiaSpend examines the data:
To understand how some political parties seem to have woken up to the need for greater women’s political representation ahead of the general elections scheduled for April and May 2019, you have only to look at the millennial female voter.
Anju Baa, a 20-year-old tribal girl from Rajgampur village in Sundergarh district in northwestern Odisha, has completed her graduation. She is enrolled in a computer class and says she will apply for a job once her course is over. Marriage? She shrugs, first comes the job.
When Anju was just a baby, her mother, Rani Secundra Baa, class 12 pass and employed as a domestic worker in Delhi, voted in her first–and so far only–election. The candidate for Birmitrapur, her assembly seat in the year 2000, was tribal leader George Tirkey, who recently joined the Congress party. Why did she vote for Tirkey? Because, said Rani, her village had taken a collective decision to support him.
But nobody tells Anju who to vote for. Like her friends, she is guided by her marzi (choice). Would she prefer a woman candidate? “I will see who the candidate is. But so far, women have done good work in my village. Our sarpanch [elected head of the village council] is a woman and she is accessible and hard-working. She got a lot of road works done for us. So, yes, women are more dedicated than men when it comes to serving the community,” she told IndiaSpendover the phone.
Continue reading “As women voters surge, number of women candidates tells the same, sad story”
An announcement by two political parties, the TMC and BJD to earmark a significant number of seats for the 2019 general election to women has not been an example for other political parties. Despite talk of ‘women’s empowerment’ both the BJP and the Congress continue to be miserly when it comes to fielding women candidates.
When Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) announced they would be fielding an unprecedented number of women for the 2019 parliamentary elections, there was a general sense of euphoria at a historic imbalance being set right.
Would other parties be inspired? The answer wasn’t long in coming. It was no. For both the BJP and Congress, it’s business as usual.
An analysis of the initial lists of both parties by Gilles Verniers, who teaches politics at Ashoka University, shows just 23 of the BJP’s 184 candidates are women. That’s a paltry 12.5%. The Congress is only marginally worse with just 17 women of 143 candidates analysed so far. That’s 11.9% — a long way from the 41% women candidates of the TMC and the 33% promised by the BJD.
Continue reading “Election 2019: Where on earth are the women candidates?”
In Hindustan Times, I look at the bleak prospects for women in the forthcoming 2019 general election. Although women are exercising their franchise in larger numbers as voters, their presence in Parliament and the assemblies remains dismal.
It is early days but already a troika of powerful women — Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and, now, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — is dominating the headlines. In a country that has been notoriously stingy in fielding women candidates as MLAs and MPs, this is a pleasant blip but nobody is counting on a New Deal for women with Elections 2019.
When women do manage to crack the glass ceiling it is often, such as Gandhi, on the strength of family ties. The depressing reality is that women comprised only 8% of all candidates in the 2014 general election and, as a result, the new Parliament had the old men’s room stamp with just 11% women MPs — substantially lower than the already low global average of 23%.
Two interesting trends have taken place since the last election. The first is the emergence of the female voter. The gender gap in voter turnout in national elections in India is now down from 16.71% in 1962 to 1.55% in 2014. Women voters have outnumbered men in several recent elections, including significant constituencies in Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and even Mizoram where of the 209 candidates who contested the recent elections, only 16 were women, none of whom won.
Continue reading “No new deal for women this coming election”
What will it take for political parties to increase women’s representation in electoral politics? After all, there is no shortage of talent and women have occupied 33% of all seats in panchayats and local civic bodies.
Exactly 101 years after the 19th Amendment granted American women suffrage, a record 116 women, including the first Muslim, the first Native American and the youngest ever, were voted to the US Congress. India, too, has the highest number of women MPs in its history — 62 of 543 elected in 2014, nudging our representation up from a measly 11% in the previous Parliament to a measly 11.65 in this one.
The 2014 election was the one in which, to trumpeting headlines, female voter turnout surpassed male turnout in half the states and union territories. Women have since continued to outperform men as voters in several assembly elections, including Bihar and Odisha, point out Milan Vaishnav and Jamie Hinston for this newspaper.
Political parties that speak loudly about women’s rights should, by now, be reflecting this enthusiastic political participation by fielding more women. Right?
Wrong. In the Chhattisgarh assembly elections, women are 10% of all candidates, finds the Association of Democratic Reform. The UP elections last year had 9.2% women candidates who won 10% of seats. In Himachal Pradesh, women were 6% of candidates and won 5.9% seats.
Continue reading “A woman’s place is in the House”