From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing Much
Mains level : Women's reservation Issue
- The Global Gender Gap report for 2018 said that the widest gender disparity is in the field of political empowerment.
- To cite the Inter-Parliamentary Union 2018 report, women legislators account for barely 24% of all MPs across the world.
- However, the experience of the top-ranked countries in the IPU list does give an indication of how women’s presence in political spaces took an upward turn in those nations.
- Rwanda, a landlocked nation with a population of 11.2 million, tops the list, with 61.3% seats in the Lower House and 38.5% in the Upper House occupied by women.
- Since 2003, the country has implemented a legislated quota of 30% in all elected positions, which has enabled a steady inflow of women parliamentarians after successive elections.
- Its Constitution has also set a quota of 30% in all elected offices.
- However, some believe that the higher representation of women in the country cannot be attributed solely to quotas — women were thrust into the political limelight due to the huge vacuum that emerged in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, which resulted in a large chunk of the country’s male population getting killed.
Leader in the Caribbean
- Cuba, the largest Caribbean island nation with a population of about 11.1 million, holds the second rank, with 53.2 % seats of its 605-member single House being occupied by women representatives.
- The Communist dispensation in Cuba did not opt for legislated gender quotas, but does follow a practice akin to voluntary quota systems.
- However, Cuban women are less represented at the local level, where candidates are selected by the local communities that often overlook women candidates.
- Sweden, the fifth-rank holder in the IPU, has a professedly feminist government and has maintained a women’s parliamentary representation of at least 40% since 90s.
- The 349-member single House, Swedish Parliament, now has 161 women with 46.1% representation.
- Sweden does not have any constitutional clause or electoral law earmarking representation for women in elected bodies.
- The issue of compulsory gender quota didn’t find favour in Sweden as it was believed that such a quota will create reverse discrimination and violate the principles of equal opportunities.
- Almost all political parties there have adopted measures to ensure a fair representation for women at all levels.
- In 1993, the Social Democratic Party adopted the ‘zipper system’, described as “a gender quota system whereby women and men are placed alternately on all party lists.”
- This further boosted women’s seat share.
Closer home, Nepal occupies the 36th position in the IPU and its 275-member Lower House has 90 women, about 32.7% of the total strength.
Situation in India
- India, at 149 among the 192 countries in the IPU list, had barely 11.8% women’s representation in the 16th Lok Sabha, which improved to 14.5% in the current Lower House.
- At least seven out of the 29 States have not sent a single woman MP.
- The 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill stipulating 33% quota for women in the Parliament and in State Assemblies remains in political cold storage.
- The system of voluntary party quotas, which has worked well in many countries, is not likely to cut much ice in India’s deeply embedded patriarchal society.
- As has happened in the case of panchayats and municipalities, only a legally mandated quota could perhaps ensure a large-scale entry of Indian women into the higher echelons of political power.