There have been some positive developments since the Covid-19 pandemic started, the most important of which is the increased involvement of women in enhancing the political and civic life of democracy in South Asia. That is in contrast to the numerous atrocities that we have observed since that time. Much has already been written on how many women leaders perform better than men on a global scale.

The deeper structural and ground-level realities of women, which are rife with numerous paradoxes, contestations, and quiet tragedies, must not be ignored. Therefore, we need to investigate the connections between violence, representation, and the political engagement of women to properly assess the relationships between gender and democracy.

One of the odd paradoxes of South Asian democracy throughout history has been the persistence of powerful female leaders at the executive level along with the generally abysmal status of women in society at large.

Women have been underrepresented in political parties as officials and as members of significant decision-making bodies, despite the fact that they have played prominent and significant roles at the grassroots level of social movements and in higher echelons of power.

Women and elections

In terms of election participation, India, for example, dropped from 117 following the 2014 election to 143 as of January 2020 in the Inter-Parliamentary Union's world ranking of women's parliamentary presence. India is now ahead of Sri Lanka and behind Pakistan (106), Bangladesh (98), and Nepal (43) (182).

Based on historical election trends and assuming no gender quota is introduced, such as the heavily jeopardised and ignored Women's Reservation Bill, scholars like Carole Spary and S M Rai estimated that it would take another 40 years for there to be 33% women in the Lok Sabha prior to the 2019 election.

There are two crucial things to keep in mind, though. In India, the proportion of female MPs in the Lok Sabha is now at a historic high of 14.6% (78 MPs). Women made up just 9% of all candidates in 2019, thus even if the percentage is small, it is noteworthy. In comparison to their male counterparts, who won with a strike rate of 66%, BJP women candidates won with a strike percentage of 73%. Furthermore, 27 of 41 female MPs were successful in keeping their positions. In a similar vein, 40 of the 50 women candidates the Trinamool Congress put out for the West Bengal Assembly elections last year were successful.

This demonstrates that women have a considerably higher likelihood of winning than men do, which is the standard by which political parties claim to award tickets.

In the 2019 general elections, there were two notable exceptions to electoral quotas. Using voluntary parliamentary quotas, West Bengal under Mamata Banerjee and Odisha under Naveen Patnaik chose to field 40% and 33% of female candidates, respectively.

It's interesting to note that women's presence may be felt more strongly as voters than as candidates in nations like Bangladesh and India. Male voter turnout in India in 1962 was 16 percentage points greater than female voter turnout. Sixty years later, women's participation in the Lok Sabha elections surpassed that of men for the first time.

This shows that women are claiming their citizenship privileges more frequently. The rising number of female voters may have an impact on political parties' agenda priorities and increase their receptivity to the interests, preferences, and worries of female voters, such as sexual harassment and gender-based violence.

The TMC promoted a number of women-focused initiatives that may have been crucial to their success. Plans like Swasthya Sathi, which supplied health cards in the names of female family heads, and Kanyashree Prakalpa and Rupashree Prakalpa, which supported girls' education and marriage, respectively, were wildly successful.

The federal government also deserves praise for its accomplishments in two areas in particular: The maternal mortality rate has decreased as a result of the DBT programmes, such as the Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan, from 167 (2011–13) to 113. (2016-18). Another significant accomplishment is the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill of 2017, which increased the existing 12 weeks of paid leave to 26 weeks.

The strength and energy of democratic processes are intimately correlated with how well parties represent and advance the interests of women. An instance in point would be the Aurat marches in Pakistan, which show that civil society activities are not wholly dependent on the effectiveness of governmental institutions. Another is the Shaheen Bagh protest, which was extremely successful in organising women.

As stated in their 2014 election programme, the BJP must use its parliamentary majority to finally approve the Women's Reservation Bill. The initiative taken by the governments of Banerjee and Patnaik to boost women's representation in parliament must act as an example to other Indian states until that time.

Increasing Female Participation: Strategies

Women's organisations have placed a strong emphasis on issues related to women's financial independence and education. Women have the flexibility to follow their interests and acquire the information they need when they are educated and financially independent, and they also have access to the resources they need to do so.

A major step in increasing the number of women engaging in politics has been reservations for women in politics.

What Does Indian Politics Allow For Gender Disparity?

The two biggest obstacles for women in politics are gender stereotypes and prejudice. There have been female political leaders, but most of them have not received the same recognition or elevated status as male politicians in comparable roles.

Another hurdle is the low level of female literacy. The World Bank estimates that 66% of women aged 15 and older are literate in 2018. Men are more likely than women to be literate (82%). It is more difficult for women to transition from unpaid employment to a public life in politics because of this imbalance and the lack of education they receive, particularly in rural areas.

There is an urgent need for policies that can ensure better representation of women in the country, such as stricter policies and implementation of girl-child education in the country; efforts from the established political parties to ensure that women be represented in state assembly and elections at a minimal level that has been agreed upon. Women participation has suffered for ages, and considering the dire circumstances we are in, these raw steps are nugatory. Extrapolating from these features, it can be said that there is still a long way to go for women to participate in politics in India, especially at higher levels of government.

Inferring from these features, it can be said that there is still a long way to go for women to participate in politics in India, especially at higher levels of government. Though we may anticipate policy improvements that will aid India in strengthening its political performance when there are more female political leaders and more women exercising their democratic rights.

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