Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Women’s Political Representation in India: Moving Beyond Tokenism


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Women's Reservation

Mains level: Reservation and Women’s political participation


“The progress of a community can be measured by the degree of progress which women have achieve” ——Babasaheb Ambedkar

Central Idea

  • Women have broken the glass ceiling of patriarchy in various sectors; however, they still face significant barriers to political participation in India. Despite achieving suffrage early, women hold only 14% of seats in the Parliament even 75 years after independence. It is time to acknowledge the systematic exclusion of women from politics and demand action for creating a more equitable political landscape.

Women’s political participation

  • Role in India’s fight for independence: Women played a crucial role in India’s fight for independence, by organising demonstrations, leading rallies, and raising awareness.
  • Representation in Constituent Assembly: There were numerous female representatives in the Constituent Assembly as well.
  • Women Chief Ministers: Just a decade ago, three of India’s largest States, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, were in the spotlight for being led by women Chief Ministers.
  • For instance: While Sushma Swaraj led the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi served as both President of the Congress Party and Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance. Also, India had its first woman President, Pratibha Patil around the same time.

The discourse on women’s reservation

  • Dates back to pre-Independence era: The discourse on women’s reservation in India originates from the pre-Independence era when several women’s organisations demanded political representation for women.
  • 10% of seats in the Legislature: It can be traced back to 1955 when a government appointed committee recommended that 10% of seats in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies should be reserved for women.
  • National Perspective Plan for Women (1988): The National Perspective Plan for Women (1988) recommended that 30% of seats in all elected bodies should be reserved for women.
  • National Policy for the Empowerment of Women: This recommendation was reiterated in the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women, which was adopted in 2001.
  • 33% reservation under Panchayati raj Act: In 1993, the Panchayati Raj Act was amended to reserve 33% of all seats in local government bodies for women, which was a significant step towards women’s political empowerment.
  • Women’s Reservation Bill in Lok Sabha: The success of this reservation led to demands for similar reservations in other elected bodies; in 1996, the Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha. The Bill proposed to reserve one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha and State legislative Assemblies for women. However, facing strong opposition from some political parties it lapsed but gained more momentum again in the early 2000s. On March 9, 2010, the Bill was approved in the Rajya Sabha.

Why female representation in Parliament and state legislatures remained low?

  • Inaccessibility of Institutions: Election records show that most political parties, though pledging in their constitutions to provide adequate representation to women, in practice give far too few party tickets to women candidates. A study found that a large section of women who do get party tickets have family political connections, or are ‘dynastic’ politicians. With normal routes of accessibility limited, such connections are often an entry point for women
  • Notion of women less likely to win: It is still widely held in political circles that women candidates are less likely to win elections than men, which leads to political parties giving them fewer tickets.
  • Challenging Structural Conditions: Election campaigns in India are extremely demanding and time-consuming. Women politicians, with family commitments and the responsibilities of child care, often find it difficult to fully participate
  • Highly vulnerable: Women politicians have been constantly subjected to humiliation, inappropriate comments, abuse and threats of abuse, making participation and contesting elections extremely challenging.
  • Expensive electoral system: Financing is also an obstacle as many women are financially dependent on their families. Fighting parliamentary elections can be extremely expensive, and massive financial resources are required to be able to put up a formidable contest. Absent adequate support from their parties, women candidates are compelled to arrange for their own campaign financing this is a huge challenge that deters their participation
  • Internalized patriarchy: A phenomenon known as ‘internalized patriarchy’ where many women consider it their duty to priorities family and household over political ambitions.

Why women participation in law making process is so important?

  • Political empowerment: Legislative representation is fundamental to political empowerment, enabling participation in the law-making process. Legislatures play a vital role in raising debates and discussions on various aspects of governance and in exacting accountability from the government.
  • Shows the status of gender parity: Women’s representation in the national parliament is a key indicator of the extent of gender equality in parliamentary politics.
  • Women bring different skills to politics: According to Political scientist, Anne “women bring different skills to politics and provide role models for future generations; they appeal to justice between sexes.
  • Facilitates specific interests of women in policy: Their inclusion in politics facilitates representation of the specific interests of women in state policy and creates conditions for a revitalized democracy that bridges the gap between representation and participation.
  • Highly effective and less likely to be criminal and corrupt: Study found that, women legislators perform better in their constituencies on economic indicators than their male counterparts also women legislators are less likely to be criminal and corrupt, more efficacious, and less vulnerable to political opportunism.

How reservation for women in India can help increase political participation?

  • Ensuring representation: Reservation of seats for women in legislatures can ensure that women are represented in decision-making bodies. This can help address the issue of underrepresentation of women in politics.
  • Encouraging women to enter politics: Reservation can provide women with an opportunity to enter politics and participate in the political process. This can help increase the number of women who contest elections and engage in politics.
  • Building capacity: Reservation can help build the capacity of women politicians by providing them with an opportunity to participate in legislative processes and gain experience in politics. This can help them to become effective leaders and represent the interests of women.
  • Changing attitudes: Reservation can help change societal attitudes towards women in politics. It can help create a perception that women are capable of holding political office and making important decisions. This can help break down stereotypes and encourage more women to participate in politics.
  • Promoting gender-sensitive policies: Women politicians can help promote gender-sensitive policies that address issues such as violence against women, gender-based discrimination, and women’s health. Reservation can help ensure that these issues are given due consideration in the legislative process.


  • Women have been waiting for too long for their right to govern not just for themselves but for the greater common good. Women’s leadership qualities are not hidden from anyone, so the denial of opportunity for political representation represents grave injustice. As India strives to become a Vishwa Guru, we must not overlook the pivotal role women can play in nation building and development. The women’s reservation Bill cannot wait any longer. The Bill must be passed.

Mains Question

Q. Women’s leadership qualities are not hidden from anyone, so the denial of opportunity for political representation represents grave injustice. Comment.

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