Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Charting women’s trajectory in parliaments globally


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Social Issues; Measures to improve women's participation;

Why in the news? 

The year 2024 is being hailed as the biggest year for democracy, with 45% of the global population preparing to exercise their voting rights or having already cast their ballots


  • Women’s representation in political spheres improved in the latter half of the 20th century, with significant progress made in many nations in securing voting rights and parliamentary seats, and in climbing to the highest political offices.
  • Despite substantial gains, women continue to constitute a minority in most parliamentary bodies and are rarely seen in top political leadership positions.

Major two observations in recent times:

1) The share of countries with universal Right to Vote: Initially, there was a significant gap between men and women regarding political participation, with men gaining voting rights while women were excluded in many nations.

  • New Zealand’s Role: New Zealand stands out as a pioneer in breaking this pattern by granting universal suffrage to women in 1893, thus allowing them to vote alongside men.
  • Widening Gap: Despite women gaining suffrage in more countries, the gap between male and female political participation widened in the early 20th century. Men’s voting rights continued to expand while women remained excluded in many places.
  • World War II: By the onset of World War II, men had voting rights in a higher proportion of countries compared to women. The disparity was stark, with men having voting rights in one out of three countries, while women had them in only one out of six countries.
  • Rapid Closure of the Gap: The gap between male and female political participation rapidly closed after the discrimination against women in voting rights ended in many countries. Both men and women gained the right to vote in many nations, leading to greater equality in political participation.

2) Gender gap in the Chief-executive roles: “Chief-executive” refers to the head of state or head of government, depending on who holds more power within the political system. While women’s representation in parliament is crucial, it’s equally important for women to hold the highest political office in a country.

  • Gender Disparity in Political Chief Executives: Data from the V-Dem project indicates a significant gender gap in political chief executives. At any given time, the vast majority of political chief executives have been men.
  • Limited Increase in Female Leadership: Over the last three decades, there has been a slight increase in the proportion of countries led by women. However, the overall share of countries where women occupy the post of chief executive remains low, accounting for less than 10%.
  • Persistent Gender Disparity: Despite some progress, the data underscores the persistent gender disparity in holding the highest political office globally. Women continue to be underrepresented in top political leadership positions.

Global Scenario for women’s share as a Parliamentarian:

  • Absence of Women in National Parliaments: In the early 20th century, women were largely absent from national parliaments across the globe.
    • Norway marked a significant milestone in 1907 when women first entered parliament. Nearly 10% of the parliamentary seats were occupied by women, indicating progress in political representation.
  • Surge in Women Entering Parliament: The latter half of the 20th century witnessed a notable increase in the number of women entering parliaments worldwide.
    • This trend of increasing female representation in parliaments accelerated notably in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
  • Rwanda’s Remarkable Achievement: Rwanda stands out as a remarkable example, with its parliamentary composition surpassing the 50% mark for women’s representation in 2008. This achievement set a notable precedent for gender equality in political representation.
  • Other Countries’ Progress: In 2008, several other countries, including Argentina, Cuba, Finland, and Sweden, had significant proportions of women parliamentarians, ranging between 40% and 50%. This indicates a global trend toward greater gender parity in political representation.

Recent Trend since 2022:


  • Low Representation in Many Countries: Despite advancements, women’s political representation remains constrained and inconsistent globally. Women constitute approximately half of the population but are significantly underrepresented in parliaments worldwide.
  • Persistent Gender Gap: Only a few countries have achieved gender parity in political representation, where women make up about half of all representatives. In the majority of countries, the share of women in parliament remains low. As of 2022, in nearly 60 countries, women’s representation in parliament was 20% or less.
  • Extreme Cases: In three countries, no women are represented in parliament, indicating extreme gender disparities in political participation and representation.

Suggestive Measures to improve Women’s representation in Parliament:

  • Implement Quotas for Female Representation: Setting quotas for the number of women parliamentarians has proven effective in increasing female representation. Countries with quotas have significantly higher percentages of women in parliament compared to those without quotas
  • End Violence Against Women in Politics: Gender-based violence, including physical, sexual, and psychological violence, is a significant barrier for women in politics. Establishing measures to combat violence, harassment, and hate speech is crucial to creating a safer environment for women parliamentarians
  • Increase Women’s Participation in Media: Addressing gender stereotypes perpetuated by the media is essential. Media coverage often focuses on irrelevant aspects of women politicians’ lives, reinforcing stereotypes. Educating journalists and monitoring media coverage can help combat gender bias and promote a more balanced portrayal of women in politics
  • Expand Participation through Women’s Caucuses: Women’s parliamentary caucuses provide a platform for women to amplify their voices and influence in parliament. Supporting these caucuses with resources, leadership, and organizational backing can empower women to promote legal reforms and advocate for gender equality in politics

Significant steps taken to improve women’s participation in parliament

  • Gender Quota Legislation: India has approved a landmark bill reserving 33% of seats in parliament for women. This quota is expected to lead to the promotion of women-friendly policies related to health, education, and jobs.  
  • Political Will and Proactive Measures: Despite challenges and slow progress, there is a growing recognition of the importance of women’s representation in Indian politics. Some political parties are taking proactive measures to nominate more women for assembly and parliament elections. However, there is a need for greater political will to address gender disparities and ensure a more inclusive political landscape
  • Empowerment through Representation: Increasing women’s representation in political parties and building a pipeline of female leaders are crucial steps to enhance women’s political participation.

Conclusion: Despite strides, global women’s political representation remains low. Quotas, combatting violence, media reform, and supporting women’s caucuses are vital to enhancing female participation in parliaments and fostering inclusive democracy.

Practice questions for the Mains

Q) Discuss the trajectory of women’s representation in global parliaments, highlighting persistent gender disparities and measures to enhance female participation. (250 words)


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