Due to systemic issues, Parliament continues to alienate women. The number of women representatives is still considerably small, but even more subtly, Parliament as a workspace continues to be built exclusively for men.
Women’s participation in the initial years
- In 1952, when the Indian Republic held its first Parliamentary session, there were 39 strong, intelligent, and passionate women as its member.
- Leading in the world in inclusiveness: At a time when women formed only 1.7% of the total members of the United States Congress and 1.1% of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, India was leading the way in the fight towards more inclusive world democracies with 5.5% women representation.
- Women played an important role in India’s struggle for independence and that contribution was reflected in their presence in the parliament.
- In India, women currently make up 14.6 per cent of MPs (78 MPs) in the Lok Sabha, which is a historic high.
- Voluntary parliamentary quota: West Bengal and Odisha have opted for voluntary parliamentary quotas, fielding 40 per cent and 33 per cent women candidates, respectively.
- The bill to reserve 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament and state legislatures was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but it was never introduced in the Lok Sabha.
- India ranks a dismal 146th in women’s representation in the national Parliament.
- At the turn of the century, it ranked 66th.
- The decline has come because progress has been piecemeal — several other countries have improved their share of women in Parliament far more rapidly.
Lack of inclusivity in the Parliament
- Absence of gender-neutral language: A closer look at our parliamentary discourse and communication reveals a concerning and disconcerting absence of gender-neutral language.
- After 75 years of Independence, Parliament often refers to women in leadership positions as Chairmen and party men.
- Lack of gender-neutral Acts: Acts have made references to women not as leaders or professionals (such as policemen), but usually as victims of crimes.
- Illiteracy: It is one of the main hurdles in making women politically empowered. Women candidates have less education and experience, on average, compared to male candidates
- Gender Disparities: Gender inequalities in terms of education, ownership of resources and continual biassed attitudes still act as barriers for women leaders.
- Societal and cultural norms:They are imposed on women bar them from entering politics.
- They have to accept the dictates imposed on them and bear the burden of society.
- The root of such instances lies with a gender-conforming Constitution.
- In its present state, the Constitution reinforces historical stereotypes that women and transgender people cannot be in leadership positions, such as the President and the Vice-President of India.
- this represents the failure of the many Union Governments which did not take the initiative of amending it.
- Correcting the language: Internationally, even mature democracies that legalised universal suffrage after India, such as Canada (1960 for Aboriginal women), Australia (1962 for Indigenous women), and the United States (1965 for women of African-American descent), have now taken concrete measures towards gender-inclusive legislation and communication..
- Amendments: India can and must begin with an amendment to the Constitution and the entire reservoir of laws.
- Focus on the deeper issues of aspiration: Once the language is corrected, the entire country, including Parliament, can focus on the deeper issues of the aspirations and growth of its woman workforce.
- Women staff in Parliament: Women are not adequately represented in Parliament staff,.
- We need a single, transparent appointment and promotion process for women staff in Parliament.
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