The participation of women in politics is not a new phenomenon. In ancient times during early Vedic period women could become members of Sabha and Samiti. However her position declined considerably after the end of Vedic age as she was not only denied the political rights but was confined to the four walls of the house. She faced many inequalities and was regarded inferior to men. Attempts were made to improve her condition during the 19th century by many social reformers. Gradual improvement was seen thereafter. Many women participated in the struggle for independence as well. However their participation remained less in number.
Enactment of Laws after Independence
After independence various laws have been enacted and various provisions have been made to empower women. To bring about more of women’s participation in politics provisions are made for the reservation of seats in the legislature. In spite of this the participation of women in politics is not satisfactory. As per the UN survey the parliamentary representation of women in the 15th Loksabha is 10.7%. This is much less as compared to other countries ( South Africa- 44.5%, Britain- 17.12% )
The representation of women at the Panchayat Raj is nearly 50% after passing of the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992. The women’s reservation bill is passed in Rajyasabha which provides 33% seats to women in parliament, however, the bill is yet to be passed in Loksabha.
Participation of Women at the Centre
The 15th Loksabha so far had the largest women members as compared to the earlier ones. The 14th Loksabha had 45 women and 15th Loksabha have a record of 59 women as Members of Parliament. Gradually younger women are entering the Loksabha. The 14th Loksabha had only 17% of women under 40, while 15th Loksabha has 29% of women below the age of 40.
Today three of the prestigious positions are in the hands of women. Meira Kumar is the speaker of Loksabha, Sonia Gandhi is the Chairperson of ruling UPA coalition party, Sushma Swaraj is the leader of opposition in the Loksabha.
Role of Women in the States
State Assembly elections were held in May 2011 for four States and it gave us two female Chief Ministers i.e. Mamta Banerjee became Chief Minister of West Bengal, Jayalalitha became Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. Mayawati is another strong woman leader of Uttar Pradesh. At the age of 39, in 1995 Mayawati became the youngest politician to be elected as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the first Dalit woman Chief Minister of any State in India. In addition Sheila Dixit became the Chief Minister of Union Territory of Delhi for the third consecutive term in 2009.
Role of Women in Local Self Government Bodies
After the passing of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992, the representation of women at the grass root level has increased by nearly 50%. Pioneering efforts in this direction were taken by the State of Karnataka in 1983 by offering reservations for women at the Panchayat level. Several States like Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand have increased women’s participation in panchayats to 50%. Women members of Panchayats have done remarkable work in improving the conditions of villagers in matters of healthcare, education, sanitation etc.