From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Women empowerment and Political Participation
- On the occasion of the 75th year of India’s independence, the Prime Minister articulated a bold vision that in the coming 25 years, “Nari Shakti” would play a vital role in India’s socio-economic developmental journey.
Background: Status of women In India
- Elevated status in ancient texts and thoughts: Culturally and mythologically, women have enjoyed an elevated status in India. For example, it is mentioned in the Kena Upanishad that it was the goddess Uma who enlightened the three powerful but ignorant gods, Indra, Vayu, and Agni, to the profound mystery of Brahman.
- Experience of women in modern era is far from ideal: Women have faced discrimination in the household and at jobs, and for a long time, they were victims of political indifference and neglect.
- Recognizing the Nari Shakti: In recent decades, “Nari Shakti” has been reasserted through micro and silent revolutions. There are some silent women-led changes transforming our society politically and economically But there is need to highlight the challenges that remain in women fulfilling their true potential as modern nation-builders of India.
- Gender gap in voter turnout is diminishing rapidly as women often exceeds male voter turnout: Research on women voters using historical data has revealed that since 2010, the gender gap in voter turnout has diminished significantly and the recent trends show women voter turnout often exceeds male voter turnout. This massive increase is a nationwide phenomenon and is also observed in less developed regions of the country where traditionally, the status of women has been significantly lower.
- Dramatic increase in women contesting election particularly in panchayat level: Since 2010, many more women have been contesting elections. To put this in perspective, in the 1950s, in the state assembly elections, women contested elections in approximately 7 per cent of the constituencies, but by the 2010s, women were competing in 54 per cent of the constituencies. This is particularly remarkable at the grass roots panchayat level where 50 per cent seats have been reserved for women for over a decade now.
Results of this positive change
- Women voters can no longer be neglected or marginalized: A key implication of this is that women voters can no longer be marginalised or neglected; they demand respect and command attention.
- Political entrepreneurs compelled to address women issues: This silent revolution has compelled political entrepreneurs and grounded leaders to design policies addressing issues that women care about. It is not surprising that some of the most dramatic policy changes concerning poverty reduction since 2015-16 have been in the form of networking of households across the nation through amenities such as cooking fuel, sanitation, water, and electricity. These are also the key drivers of long-term economic growth.
- Rising women voters compelled political parties to make law and order a critical issue: In less developed regions where women and children have been the biggest victims of lawlessness, the silent revolution of rising women voters has compelled political parties to make law and order a critical political issue.
- Positive response by political parties: Political parties and leaders are now responding to this by improving access and affordability to basic needs of ordinary people like amenities and infrastructure rather than focusing on the rhetoric of caste and communalism. This is in sharp contrast to the “democratic recession” that is being experienced in the rest of the world.
- Women employment a biggest challenge: According to World Bank data, the female labour force participation rate has declined from 32 per cent in 2005 to 19 per cent in 2022. Labour force participation does not consider unpaid domestic services, which include household services such as taking care of the children and the elderly.
- More hours spent is in unpaid domestic services: Our research based on data from the time use surveys in India in 2018–19 reveals that women in the age group of 25 to 59 years spend approximately seven hours daily in unpaid domestic services.
- Double burden of working is one of the reasons behind decline of women labour participation: Double burden of working women perhaps is one of the critical reasons for the decline in the women’s labour force participation rate. In sharp contrast, working or non-working men in the same age group spend less than 45 minutes on unpaid domestic or caregiving services.
- Declined fertility rate: Fertility rates have declined dramatically below the replacement rate, the share of the ageing population has increased, and there is an alarming increase in the percentage of kinless elderly.
Did you know Baumol Cost Disease?
- The care industry is labour-intensive and, therefore, subject to Baumol Cost Disease, implying that the cost of providing care would keep rising over time.
- On labour force participation: It is essential to look at the experience of advanced countries, where increased participation of women in the labour force has come at the expense of family structure.
- On dynamics of household and elderly care, sharing burden by men is a necessity: If we want more women to participate in the labour force, and at the same time preserve the family structure, then men would have to share the burden of unpaid domestic services. This would require a break from tradition and the creation of new modern narratives and myths.
- As India takes over the presidency of G20, it is an occasion to celebrate “Nari Shakti” and political empowerment a stupendous increase in women voter turnout in the decade has strengthened and made our democracy more progressive. Women’s political empowerment has been a bottom-up revolution in India and holds lessons for other countries.
Q. Culturally and mythologically, women hold a high position in India. However, there are still challenges in women fulfilling their true potential as India’s modern nation-builders. Discuss.