The voice of Women: Women in Parliament

Introduction

Women’s representation in the parliament is very important. But the representation of women in parliament in India is highly disappointing. Women occupy only 66 seats in the 543 member in the Lok Sabha, which is a mere 12%. The scenario for Member of Legislative Assemblies (MLA’s) in State Assemblies in India is even worse.

The best among them is Bihar, Rajasthan and Haryana have 14% representation while the worst states are Pondicherry and Nagaland, which have no women MLA’s. This disappointing scenario, has a lot to take for India.

The 40% group

It is motivating to find that in some countries, a large number of women MP’s make up the parliament. 13 countries in the world constitute, what is known as the 40% group i.e. women that constitute 40% or more seats in the National Parliament. This group is topped with Rwanda, where women MPs make up more than 63.8% in the Parliament which outnumbers the men.

The global average for women in parliament stood at 22.4%. While Europe surpasses the global average at 25.2%, Sub-Saharan Africa has an average representation of 22.6%, Asia at 19% and the Arab states at 18%. The Nordic countries alone have 41.5% average of women MP’s. 42 countries in the world have 30% or more women MP’s in their Parliament.

India’s Position in the world

So India’s stands at 103 among 141 ranks listed for 190 countries. But the shock is not even surprising. Algeria at 27th (31.6%), Iraq and South Sudan at 44th (26.5%) each, are some of the countries that defeats India from the very margin, where women MPs are concerned. Even Libya at 44th with 16% women stands way above India.

Even among the Asian countries, India’s position is nothing to be happy about. Out of the 18 countries that we have data for, India’s position is very disappointing 13th, with countries like The Philippines (27.2%), Vietnam (24.3%) and Cambodia (20.3%) are doing much better. Japan is surprisingly lagging much better. Japan is surprisingly lagging much behind.

Closer Home: South Asia

Disappointing as it seems, let us look at South Asia. Surely India is far ahead yes? Turns out, no we are far behind. Out of 8 SAARC countries, India stands at 5th position. Nepal is leading with 29.5%, followed by Afghanistan at 27.7%.

Why do some countries fare better than others?

As these surprising findings on women MPs unfold before us, we are led to question as to why some of these countries have much higher women MPs than the others. What are they doing right? What spaces are they creating and what special incentives are being offered to create the level playing field for women to not just participate in politics but also to see themselves through the threshold of political decision making bodies? One of the most important provisions that almost all the countries with better women’s representation have ensured is to create constitutionally mandated quotas or reservation for women. Rwanda has 30% reservation for women as do most of the countries in the top 20. Closer home Nepal has 29% legislated quota for women, Afghanistan has 28%, Pakistan and Bangladesh have 20% seats reserved for women. Some European countries have voluntary political party quotas that encourage and ensure women’s participation in the political process.

Rwanda is a fantastic case study of how to do things right to get more women to the parliament. While it has 30% reservation for women at the Parliament, there is active participation of women at all levels right down to the grassroots. There is also special encouragement from the political leadership, starting from president Paul Kagame that has translated into women breaching the 30% quota limit and making up for almost 64% of the national Parliament. That is a heart-warming record for a country that is reconstructing itself post genocide. Indian lawmakers and political establishment could learn valuable lessons from Rwanda and take steps to correct the historical wrongs.

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I am Akshinta Das a poet,singer-songwriter and performer

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Akshintadas

Akshintadas

I am Akshinta Das a poet,singer-songwriter and performer

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