Men usually excluded women from taking any important decision which made the women realise that they could only get to take part in decision making and their role could be counted as equal to men only when they had the right to vote. New Zealand was the first country to officially declare women’s right to vote on the year 1893. In India women got this right in the year 1918. The last country to give women suffrage was Saudi Arabia in 2015. The progress is slow as women are still underrepresented almost everywhere and attitude towards them is even worse.
Women suffrage in India
When the women in India started fighting for their right for suffrage they not only wanted voting rights but also equal rights as men to have positions in an office. Even though in 1918 the Britain granted suffrage to women with property. Later on both men and women tried to give the voting rights for re-evaluation but it was ignored. After a lot of struggle they were allowed to vote and also stand for local elections. Women’s right to vote depended on their property, literacy and also their marital status initially. Even after the Government of India Act 1935 a very small percentage of women could vote. In the Constituent assembly of India 15 women won seats after which they made some changes in the constitution and later it was agreed to have universal suffrage in India.
British had always argued that universal franchise was a bad idea for india. Even Mahatma Gandhi was against giving women the right to vote, he believed women should stay home and support their men while they were fighting. Yet indian women’s organization still fought hard to get their right to vote. Women living in purdah were made an excuse which was used against their suffrage. Arguments like women voting would mean that they won’t be there to look after their husband and children and breastfeed the newborns. Their incompetence and inferiority was also put forward.Their voting rights were taken away in case they were divorced, widowed or even if the husband loses his property. In some matriarchal society where women held power it was resonated as an exception by the british government. Basically, women’s eligibility depended on their husband’s economic and social conditions, all this was due to the britisher’s disbelief on the illiterate masses of india.
Even after Independence when constitution was being drafted and universal adult franchise was about to be officially declared for which both man and women had to register themselves for their voting rights, women denied revealing their names and addressed themselves as daughters, wives or mothers of the male members in the house, even though the registration had to be individual. Both the government and women organizations had to appeal to these women to give their real identity for their own good. There is now a reservation of one-third seats for women but many places have increased it to 50% reservation for women, and many places are working towards acquiring 50% reservation for women.
Every year the number of female voters have been increasing whereas male voters have been stagnant, in some places there are more women voters than men. This may be because all these years women have been told how to behave, what to wear, whom to marry and all such decisions are taken for them and now finally they have the right to say what they want to say, whom they want to say it to and how they want to say it. Since most men are occupied with their jobs it is the women who take care of everything inside and outside their homes due to which they have the knowledge to make better decisions. No part gives many tickets to women which evidently means women are being ignored in electoral parties and so are the issues related to them. Not many women are trusted to win elections as it is commonly said that women have set foot in a man’s world. Before elections parties come forward with promises made towards the benefit of women but those stay only for sometime till the goal of winning the election is achieved.
Women in Panchayat
Given the fact that the treat of female sex is very bad in India it is an amazing acheivement when we see that the number of women in panchat is increasing, even after so many odds are stacked up against them. Unlike the uban feminist who are mostly projecting outrage and anger the women in panchayat are filled with humility and speak with clear minds. It is a lot harder for women in villages to hold such positions since panchayat takes away a day from their life which means they won’t get payment of wage for a day. The main concern of women in such positions comes from their own lives which makes it easier for women in villages to relate to, all they ask for is proper education, healthcare and funds to take care of the other two.
Women are encouraged to microfinance through self help groups so that they can help themselves in times of need and don’t have to be dependent on anyone, even the banks since it is not easy for them to get access to banks and in some villages there are no banks. The women in panchayat even though themselves never got the opportunity of getting proper education because of caste politics and quota, yet they encourage education for all. These leaders also work towards the infrastructure of their village, provision of potable water, building of toilets, washrooms for both girls and boys separately, these are the necessary steps which are seen to be taken by these female leaders of the grassroot level of politics.
Elected Women Representatives have achieved a lot but have many hurdles in front of them. Years of patriarchy have affected them as they still face problems of domestic violence and the purdah system. Lack of cooperation by the male members as seeing women in a senior position hurt their ego and they deny working under them and even people in the administration do not cooperate with them. The years of practice of the caste system also plays a troublesome role. Women who are just starting to work in this sector have inadequate work knowledge and experience due to which they face problems and even their lack of education is an add on. They face problems in collecting taxes as many people in villages find it hard to pay taxes but they equally want the work to be done before time. It is hard to maintain a village since no one agrees to the two children rule and women are used as machines to give birth to more number of children. It also becomes hard for women in power to talk to men at times.
Women in Indian politics
India falls in the lowest quartile with respect to the number of women in parliament. It is not that women are not allotted work but they are usually fined to women wing, they are given work related to women issues like dowry, rape, girl child marriage, etc. Women leaders broadly fall under two groups, one which has family ties and one which don’t, Sonia Gandhi and Mayawati, respectively. Most women politicians have found it difficult to rise within party hierarchies, and have managed to achieve clear leadership only when they have broken out and set up parties on their own. Another peculiarly Indian characteristic seems to dominate – that is the unquestioning acceptance by the (largely male) party rank and file of the leader’s decisions.
Even though we Indians take pride in saying that we have had a female president but women in Indian parliament still take up only 14% of the seats as of 2019. In india it is usually said that women are not interested in politics but in reality we see a huge turnout of women as compared to men in some places when it comes to giving vote or in campaigns done by any party. SOme are of the opinion that women are just there in politics for their male members in the house as proxies for them and they individually do not want to be a part of this politics. There are women who come from political dynasties but there are also crores of women who have been elected as representatives in the last many years. Sp it is a myth and more of a gender bias until substantial proof is provided. Due to gender biasness it has been assumed that she will not be able to develop her constituency, citizen and male representative and most women are criminals. But studies by the UN have found that constituencies led by women contribute more to the GDP by 1.8%. Constituencies see 15% more growth in the economy under women legislators. So we see that female legislators have led to an improvement in socio-economic development in their constituencies. It is also believed that women cannot win elections due to which they do not get tickets to contest in elections but in reality women are winning big and higher percentage even when parties are not fielding them.
Inclusion of women
The system is designed in the way where even if a woman works hard and brings a great change in politics she is still considered to be a man in dresses. In this system of masculine hierarchy of work it has always been correctly assumed that the female will bring the required amount of femininity and values in the work. In the world of patriarchy women have always been expected to bring inclusion, fairness, empathy and so on whereas people seek for positive masculine which brings competitiveness, focus and assertiveness which transforms into domination, greed and corruption. Men are aware of the negative impact of all this yet they choose to achieve the predetermined goals over moral values. There should be a balance in masculine and feminine values and because there is an imbalance it leads to destruction in many places in many ways. Women are equally responsible for everything bad and good happening in this world. It is time to acknowledge women and feminine values and be interdependent and complementary in every sector for the world to grow. The focus only on women in the leading position is not enough, women have to bring their own things into the table and not just follow what has been going on for years.