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Issue of Gender Inequality in Indian Political Parties – Indian Polity Current Affairs for UPSC exam

Issue of Gender Inequality in Indian Political Parties – Indian Polity Current Affairs for UPSC exam

Relevance:

  • GS2 || Indian Society || Women || Issues Concerning Women

Why in the news?

India has slipped 28 places in Global Gender Gap Index 2021 published by the World Economic Forum.

Status of Gender inequality in India:

  • Gender inequality refers to the health, education, economic and political inequalities between men and women.
  • India is considered one of the most difficult countries for women to live and achieve their full potential.
  • Various international gender inequality indices rank India differently on each of these factors but these indices are also controversial.
  • According to the Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2021, India was ranked 140 on the Gender Gap Index (GGI) among 156 countries polled.
  • Most of the decline occurred on the political empowerment sub-index, where India regressed 13.5 percentage points, with a significant decline in the number of women ministers (from 23.1 per cent in 2019 to 9.1 per cent in 2021).
  • Among India’s neighbours, Bangladesh ranked 65, Nepal 106, Pakistan 153, Afghanistan 156, Bhutan 130 and Sri Lanka 116.
  • In South Asia, only Pakistan and Afghanistan ranked below India.
  • Also, India was placed at a lowly 123 position in the gender inequality index (GII) -2020 released by the UNDP.

International Scenario:

  • Women serve as Heads of State or Government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader.
  • At the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. Just 10 countries have a woman Head of State, and 13 countries have a woman Head of Government.
  • Only 21 percent of government ministers were women, with only 14 countries having achieved 50 per cent or more women in cabinets.
  • Balanced political participation and power-sharing between women and men in decision-making is the internationally agreed target set in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
  • Most countries in the world have not achieved gender balance, and few have set or met ambitious targets for gender parity

Significance of political representation:

  • The term ‘political participation’ has a very wide meaning. It is not only related to ‘Right to Vote’, but simultaneously relates to participation in: decision-making process, political activism, political consciousness, etc.
  • Women in India participate in voting, run for public offices and political parties at lower levels more than men. Political activism and voting are the strongest areas of women’s political participation.
  • Though women in India have held several high constitutional posts including that of Prime Minister as well as the President, the relative comparison of the political empowerment of Indian women is abysmally low when compared with western countries .

Share of women in Political representation:

  • Women turnout during India’s parliamentary general elections 2019 was 65.63%, compared to 67.09% turnout for men.
  • India ranks 20th from the bottom in terms of representation of women in Parliament.
  • Women have held the posts of president and prime minister in India, as well as chief ministers of various states

Measures taken:

  • By Political parties: Political parties have increased outreach among women voters as India’s party system has become more competitive.
  • This has included the creation of women’s wings in the largest parties. The BJP’s wing is the BJP Mahila Morcha, the INC’s wing is All India Mahila Congress, and the CPI’s wing is the National Federation of Indian Women.
  • By Parliament and State legislatures: The Parliament has enacted the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments Acts giving reservation for women in the local governments across the country.
    • The parliament has also enacted Prevention of Sexual harassment at Workplace Act, 2013.
    • The Parliament has recently amended the Maternity benefits (amendment) Act, 2017 to make pro-women provisions in the Act.
  • By the Government: The Government has taken several measures to encourage more and more women to participate in economic activities.
    • The government has opened a ‘Mahila bank’ and also started schemes like ‘Stand-up India’ and ‘Strat-Up India to encourage entrepreneurship among women.
    • Other than this, Women Self Help Groups (SHGs) have also been strengthened for organisation strengthening of working rural women.
    • The government has also taken several measures to ensure women’s security in public places.
    • Dedicated ‘Mahila Thanas’ have been opened for providing security to women.

Challenges to women’s participation:

  • Sexual violence: The Indian politics is characterised by extreme violence and muscle and money powers. This discourages women from taking active participation in politics.
  • Discrimination: The workplaces are often seen to have discriminative behaviour towards women employee. The glass ceiling impact is visible across the country and societies.
  • Skill gap: Political participation is related with economic empowerment. The existent skill gap among Indian women is a serious challenge in their employability. According to a study conducted by FICCI, there is as much as a 27% skill deficit among Indian women as compared to their counterpart.
  • Overcoming social barriers to participation: The society expects women to play certain social roles such as motherhood in time which affects the economic participation of women. There is less freedom for women in India as far as their freedom regarding political participation is concerned.

Way forward:

  • Political parties should come forward to give more active political opportunities to women.
  • Statutory bodies aimed at protecting the interests of women such as National Commission of Women (NCW), National Commission of Human Rights (NHRC) etc. must be strengthened with more participation of women and women-centric functioning.
  • The Parliament needs to pass the Parliament Reservation for Women Bill to give reservation on political representation of women in the Parliamentary seats across the country.
  • There is a need for fostering political awareness among women about their rights and interests so that they do come forward and claim their political rights.

Model Mains Question:

  1. Discuss the need to bring a law to provide reservation for women in the Parliament. Highlight the reasons that held the Parliament back from doing so.