Given its far reaching consequences, the 73rd Amendment along with 74th is called a silent revolution. The most revolutionary provision is said to be the reservation of one-third of the seats for women in local bodies (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging the SC’s and ST’s). Further not less than one-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women.
Constitution through 73rd amendment 1992 provided for one third reservation for women in both rural and urban local bodies.It brought an unprecedented huge number of women in governance arena in India.
Impact of amendment on patriarchal character of Indian political processes: • But has it really made a considerable impact towards improving the status of women is debatable issue. In spite of progressive nature of the constitution, traditional social structures that restricted women’s social participation were reinforced in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege.
• The reservation of seats in the panchayati raj institutions has enabled women to contest and win elections but lot of structural and procedural challenges restrict their capacity to become effective leaders. Women’s increased vulnerability to poverty, lower educational status and lack of financial independence are all compounded by the perpetuation of traditional and outdated social attitudes, which give preference to male leaders. Inequality based on gender differences resulted in female literacy rates being lower at 65.46% than that of their male counterparts at 82.14%. Women are often assumed to be proxy for male family members who are not able to contest the seat due to reservation system and their capacity to make their independent decisions is completely questioned.
• The violent nature of politics also has negative impact on women’s political participation and makes it difficult for them to exercise their power and decisions in today’s politics and continues to pose big challenges for them. The women from ST SC categories have to face double burden of caste and gender discrimination due to which they mush more pushed towards the outskirts of mainstream Indian politics. The women from minorities also face the ill effects of patriarchy.
Following datashows that there is no major change in women participation in politics in India even after enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act :
• According to Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women report — Women in Politics 2017, the Lok Sabha had 64 (11.8 percent of 542 MPs) and Rajya Sabha 27 (11 per cent of 245 MPs) women MPs.
• There are just 62 women among the 678 elected members of the Assemblies in the elections, as per data compiled by the Association for Democratic Reforms and the Centre for Policy Research. It was 77 in the previous election. The total number of women MLAs has come down to 9 per cent in 2018 from 11 per cent in 2013.
• In India, between 2010 and 2017 women’s share rose 1 percentage point in its Lower House (Lok Sabha)
• Representation of women at local government levels varied from state to state.”There are 13.72 lakh elected women representatives (EWRs) in PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institutions) which constitute 44.2 per cent of total elected representatives (ERs) as on December, 2017 • Women’s participation in political parties remained low in the 1990s with 10-12% membership consisting of women. From 1980-1970, 4.3% of candidates and 70% of electoral races had no women candidates at all.
Reservation of seats
Patriarchal character is still prevalent:
● Elected women representatives continue to work as a Rubber stamp for their family members (especially husbands). Sometimes they are called as “Pati panchayat”.
For Example, a man had a “power of attorney’ document which gave him the right to take decisions in place of the elected woman sarpanch whose election expenses he had paid for.
● They also work as proxies for rural elites hence restricting their autonomy.
● Burden of household responsibilities, purdah (veil) system, etc affects their performance.
● A study in Meerut found lack of clarity with respect to role of women.
● This was thought to have transcendental effect on the overall nature of Indian politics.
However, it’s impact has been limited. Even today number of women representatives in parliament is around 12%
● Even after many years of effort, women’s reservation bill is yet to be passed reflecting strong patriarchal tendency prevalent in politics.
However, the success stories are outnumbering these challenges
● Taking up development works: Example: Women sarpanch of Dhani Miyan Khan GP in Haryana built a training center for women and ensured that every village child went to school.
● Education leading to (social, political, economic) empowerment of women. Ex: MBA graduate who quit her job to ensure clean water, solar power, paved roads, etc in Soda GP in Rajasthan.
● A lot of them have been part of mother committees to effectively implement mid-day meals scheme, anganwadi programs.
● They have also taken part in sanitation drives and prohibition campaigns.
Reservation of seats
● Reservations for women
o Reduced prejudice against female leaders
o enhanced respect for woman.
● Families are more likely to educate their daughter and generate political aspirations among women.
● It acts as a pull factor for women to participate in decision making process.
● Act as agents of social revolution: women are acting as an agent of change and raising voice against injustice and atrocities.
● Women representative gave priority to those goods and services which are important for women.
● Positive impact on the confidence of women.
● Study by Ministry of Panchayati Raj:
o Initially, women lacked confidence but exposure has given them new confidence.
o Women took autonomous decisions thus rejecting the apprehension that women representatives will be the mouthpieces of male members.
• Government initiatives and schemes such as Mahila SashaktiKaran Abhiyan should be implemented in letter and spirit.
• Article 243D can be amended to increase the percentage of women in Panchayat. for example in states like Maharashtra and Bihar it is around 50%.
• Innovative initiatives like mahila gram sabhas can also be organized to focus on women specific issues.
Reservation of seats
In order to see effective results of all the efforts of constitutional and governmental efforts towards women empowerment and their increased participation in political sphere for a more inclusive social order, there is a need to address the several structural and institutional deficiencies which result in the limited success of the schemes and programmes of the government.
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