Define the role of Indian women in Indian politics up to the last general election.

gsenviro | Student

Since its independence in 1947, India has constitutionally provided equal political rights to women, that is the right to vote, the right to run for a public office, the right to form political parties, the right to participate in political activities, etc. Since then, a number of women have attained the pinnacle of politics by becoming the prime minister (Indira Gandhi) and President (Pratibha Patil), Chief Minister of various states (Mayawati, Jayalalita, Mamta Banerjee, Vasundhara Raje, Shiela Dixit, Rabri Devi, etc.) and have led their parties (Jayalalita, Mamta Banerjee, Mayawati, etc.).

(Sonia Gandhi has been the most powerful women in Indian politics for last 20 years, however, her Italian birth has been a point of contention and I have not mentioned her among "Indian women").

Having said that, India has one of lowest numbers of women representatives in its parliament. At the local level (village level), the representation is 50% due to the 1992 law mandating half of representation come from women.  

Indian women have traditionally been discriminated against in politics, have lower literacy rates compared to male counterparts and are burdened with the traditional role of looking after the children and household. In fact, in almost all the instances, the woman representative acts as a "proxy" for her husband/father/father-in-law/family. In other words, the woman gets elected, but the roles and responsibilities of the position are delegated to a male from the family.

The situation is improving and in the last general election, 61 women were elected to the parliament, i.e. about 11% representation. At the state level, more representation is coming from women; many of them are highly educated, young and carrying out their responsibilities independently. Ultimately, India is seeking a 33% representation from women in politics.