Women’s Representation in Politics = Holistic Socio-Economic Development
At the Centre for Social Research (CSR), we have been strong advocates of women’s participation in politics, not just by head count but also intellectually. However, to achieve the latter, the former has to be attained. As on 2016, the Indian women’s political representation stands at 12 percent. CSR has staged protest for women reservation bill, #Ab33Nahi50 and has repeatedly written and analyzed about Hillary Clinton’s possibility of becoming the next United States’ President. In a recent article written by Vox Policy and Politics, there has been a statement about women legislators enhancing the lives of female citizens in the country. Back home, it has been made evident by the latest instance of Mayawati discussing atrocities against women in this year’s monsoon session of the Parliament. The Vox article also states that women legislators take more action by passing bills and converting them into laws. The fact that women get more work done, also rings true for India, as the United Nations Women published statistics for the year 2015 and reported, “Research on panchayats (local councils) in India discovered that the number of drinking water projects in areas with female-led councils was 62 per cent higher than in those with male-led councils.” Although the Vox article details the political situation in the United States; yet the crux of the article has global resonance. More women in politics not only ushers a gender equitable representation into a country’s socio-economic concerns, but also unburdens the men off patriarchy. However, at this point, I have to be careful in pinning down socio-economic concerns through gender lens lest I am labelled as a misandrist. The Men Rights’ Activists (MRA) have more problem with the type of issues raised in the ideology of feminism than the ideology itself. Hence, we shall discuss issues that do not give a field day to the MRAs.
The recent bill-turned-law for Transgenders’ welfare is a proof that the caste label in India provides space for development of those people to whom the label belongs. In the case of Indian transgenders, the categorization has been dual – first was their personal identification of being third sex and then a caste allocation to that identification. Despite being a rather sad fact, it can be extrapolated for the statement made by the Oxford Handbook of ‘Gender and Politics’, “People all over the world find that the basic conditions of their lives—their safety, health, education, work, as well as access to markets, public space, and free expression—are fundamentally shaped by their identification as belonging to particular sex or gender groups.” The Oxford Handbook also states that, “Across the globe, gender determines who goes hungry and who gets adequate nutrition and water, who can vote, run for office, marry, or have rights to children, who commands authority and respect and who is denigrated and dismissed, and who is most vulnerable to violence and abuse in their own homes and intimate relationships.” Having established that the role of women is important in politics, national level policy design and implementation; by no means it implies that women lead to lower levels of corruption. As per the aforementioned United Nations report, “…A democratic and transparent politics is correlated with low levels of corruption, and the two create an enabling environment for more women to participate.” A paper written by Chattopadhyay and Duflo, “Women as Policy Makers”, suggests that in a country like India, policy outcomes cannot be attributed solely to the contribution of its women political leaders. The impact of gender can be seen if we take a step back and reflect on choice of policy, an example of which would be, “In West Bengal, women complain more often than men about drinking water and roads, and there are more investments in drinking water and roads in Gram Panchayats reserved for women.”
It is a matter of research to unearth the extent of attribution to the political environment where women find it easy to participate vis-à-vis participation of privileged women with regards to their family’s political lineage, their personal, intellectual and political credentials. Having said that, it is indeed encouraging to note that not only are there of signs of increasing involvement of women but also discussions on the same have been initiated. Going forth, let’s hope for an exponential graph of women in politics.