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Increase in women turnout at elections is the biggest change in Indian democracy, said Sanjay Kumar

A number of issues such as women’s representation in politics, obstacles to better representation of women in government and other related issues were discussed in a panel on the topic ‘Women in Politics’ held on the concluding day of  Difficult Dialogues 2018 at ICG.

The session was moderated by Mukulika Banerjee, director, South Asia Centre and associate professor at the London School of Economics, panellists included Gilles Verniers, assistant professor of Political Science at Ashoka University and co-director of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data; Jaya Jaitly, former politician and founder of Dastkari Haat Samiti; Sanjay Kumar, director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi; Shamika Ravi, director of Research at Brookings India and Economic Advisory Council to the PM of India; Shazia Ilmi, a gender activist, political leader and filmmaker; Pavan K Varma, a writer-diplomat, MP, author and director of Nehru Centre in London and; gender development adviser, Deepa Narayan.

Speaking about women turnout at elections, Kumar said: “Bihar, the first state which witnessed the increasing turnout of women in 2005, 2010 and 2015 is also the state with the biggest gap between men and women turnout in regards to assembly elections.” He added that they are in the process of doing a study to understand what has encouraged women to vote in big numbers. “From the study we have been doing we got to know that women are making their own decision of choosing the party they want to vote,” he said.

Kumar also mentioned that in women turnout uneducated and highly educated groups are the lowest and women of basic education, for example, secondary pass women are the ones actually going to vote in much bigger numbers. “The increase in women turn out is the biggest change in Indian democracy,” he added.

Varma raised the question of women reservation bill that has not been passed. He said that we are dealing with a patriarchal mindset that also controls power which will not allow the women reservation to be passed unless sufficient pressure is brought about on them. “If this continues I do not think this bill will be passed for another 10 years,” Varma added.

Adding to the same, Shamika said: “The reason we need women reservation is because the rational for a bill like this is not really efficiency that women are better so they will outperform the men. It is about justice because it is more expensive for women to enter politics.”

Gilles spoke about the myths surrounding women in politics, he said: “The myths include women are less experienced, they make for weaker candidates, the job is too hard for them etc,” he said.

Talking about the patriarchy within political parties, Jaya said that patriarchy and the control of power are really two sides of the same coin and power itself is something having been in men’s hands, with the party, within the society, within most countries all over the world; that power nobody wants to let go.” She also added that no matter how much we may argue against injustice or laws not being implemented, society not changing as rapidly as the good laws we make into our system, the fact is that law actually leads to the change.

Shazia emphasised on social consciousness, she said that there is a need for social consciousness as it will lead to political participation. “Let alone political participation in parliament, I feel that political consciousness and political activism has to be preceded by social consciousness,” she concluded.

(The Navhind Times was the

Media Partner for the event)

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