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Election 2014: Imbalanced participation of women

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The marginalization of women in electoral politics is deeply embedded in the party system and the imbalanced gender power relations in the main political dispensations in India. They continue to be discriminated against not only in terms of seat allotments to contest elections but also within the rank and file of major political parties.

The reasons for women being on the fringes are varied but the focal factor that excludes them from the process is the patriarchal and male-dominant party competition structure that continues to exist in the Indian subcontinent. This not only dissuades females from electoral politics but also acts as a barrier in their quest to share political power.

In contrast to the exclusionary policies followed by parties and the poor representation of women in legislative bodies both at the national and state levels, their participation as voters has seen a significant push in the late 1990s and reached an all-time high in the recent Lok Sabha election. It becomes imperative in this context to review the participation of women in the various stages of elections to find out why it continues to remain uneven and distorted even after six decades of independence.

The political participation of women can be analyzed using a triangle model deconstructing their electoral interactions at three stages within the framework of general elections. At the top are women in the Lok Sabha. Their representation has increased from 22 seats in the 1952 election to 61 seats this year, a phenomenal increase of 36 percentage points. However, gender disparity remains skewed as nine out of ten parliamentarians in the Lok Sabha are men.

A world of schoolgirls

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(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

One of the more difficult questions I found myself being asked when I was a United Nations under-secretary-general, especially when addressing a general audience, was: “What is the single most important thing that can be done to improve the world?”

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