Over the years, India has seen several women leaders in its politics. However, in a nation with a population of over 140 crore, the number of women in politics and the political representation of women in India is still nowhere close to being satisfactory.
The present Lok Sabha has a total of 542 members, out of which 78 are female members, while the present Rajya Sabha has a total of 224 members, out of which 24 are female members. This is paltry and paints a grim picture regarding women in Indian politics.
Although we have seen Mayawati, Jayalalitha, Mamata Banerjee, Sonia Gandhi, Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani and others emerge as prominent women leaders in recent years, the fact remains that we have had only one woman head of state till now – Indira Gandhi, who remains India’s first and hitherto only woman Prime Minister.
In a country where women are among the most unsafe anywhere on this planet; where old women, middle-aged women, young women, toddlers and in some egregious cases, even infants are susceptible and subjected to sexual assault, often by close family members; in a nation where inserting objects into women’s genitalia is seen as a matter of routine and causes no outrage anymore; where men habitually, repeatedly use sex as a weapon to ‘teach women a lesson’; where on one hand, pre-adolescent girls are worshipped as goddesses and on the other, burnt alive or shot dead or thrown under a train in the name of ‘family honour’ – the need for increased political participation cannot be emphasized enough.
One way this can be done is by stressing on starting women’s political education from a very early age. At present, young girls are not actively encouraged to engage in politics, even if it just involves keeping up with political developments. Politics is still considered largely a ‘man’s profession’.
They are also ‘warned’ that politics is a ‘dirty’ field/career to enter/pursue and that ‘good people’ keep away from it. The ruthlessness and opportunism shown by aspiring political leaders does not help matters.
Politics today has the same aura of ‘untouchability’ that the Bollywood film industry used to once possess. It’s ‘just not done’ to have political aspirations as a woman.
Part of this problem has to do with how your life changes once you enter politics. Women in politics become eloquent, self-assured and powerful, on the basis of their own merit. Now, they have no more need for a man’s approval, permission and standing in society to get work done, stand up for themselves and take decisions that have wide-reaching ramifications.
One radical move that may help change the status quo is by having a dedicated national political party solely for women. This party – exclusive to women — will be responsible for women’s rights, serious concerns, predicaments, handicaps and roadblocks that prevent women from getting their rightful place in society. Concomitantly, the exposure women would get from being associated with such a body would empower them in ways which no one can accurately imagine or predict. This would, in turn, ideally be used by women to further improve their condition in all spheres of life – personal, sexual, social, economic, political and national.
The need for such an entity cannot be emphasized enough. It is needed and it is needed now… In the long lifespan of an average Indian woman, such a body could contribute in several meaningful ways. That would in turn help make society better and later on, ameliorate the condition of women from all walks of life.