Thirty-four of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) 312 members of legislative assembly (MLAs) in India’s most populous state are women. This is the largest number of women MLAs for any party in Uttar Pradesh (UP) since Independence, the party claimed.

While we found this to be true, the claim requires some context. Women account for 11 percent of BJP legislators, an improvement of 9.1 percentage points from 1.8 percemt in 1989 when the party started giving tickets to women contestants. But women are under-represented in both the BJP and the UP assembly.

The proportion of women MLAs in the UP assembly, however, continues to be around 10 percent, and has not crossed 10 percent since independence, according to data compiled from Election Commission of India and advocacy group Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Women constitute 46 percent of voters of UP, according to Election Commission data.

In the 2017 assembly elections, BJP’s proportion of women candidates was only marginally higher than that of the Samajwadi Party (SP), but the difference in winning candidates could be explained by the BJP’s landslide victory in the elections this time.

Of 4,823 contestants in UP, only 9.2 percent (445) were women.

What about women’s representation in other states?

BJP has argued that it has gone beyond lip service in terms of women’s representation.

The proportion of women candidates in the BJP has not crossed 10 percent in the remaining four states, while the proportion of female candidates in the 2017 assembly elections in the five states was lower than 10 percent.

These trends could also explain why India scores poorly on the global comparison of women in Parliament and ministerial positions.

India ranks 88 out of 186 countries in the list of Women in Ministerial Positions, according to ‘Women in Politics: 2017’ published by Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international organisation of world Parliaments and United Nations Women, a division of the United Nations that works for women empowerment and gender equality.

India has only 12 percent (9/75) women in the Union Council of Ministers: Sushma Swaraj (external affairs), Uma Bharati (water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation), Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (women and child development), Harsimrat Kaur Badal (food processing industries) and Smriti Zubin Irani (textile) hold cabinet-level portfolios. Nirmala Sitaraman holds independent charge for commerce and industry while Niranjan Jyothi (food processing), Krishna Raj (women and child development) and Anupriya Patel (health and family welfare) are ministers of state.

India is ranked 148 out of 193 countries in the list of women in Parliament, according to the same report.

Of the 541 members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha, only 64 (12 percent) are women. In the Rajya Sabha, only 27 of 244 MPs (11 percent) are women.

Women comprise 27.7 percent of parliamentarians in Afghanistan, 29.6 percent in Nepal, 25.3 percent in Iraq, 20.6 percent in Pakistan and 20.3 percent in Bangladesh, according to the report by IPU and UN Women.

As the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008, for 33 percent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies remains lapsed, after being passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010, India still struggles to maintain gender balance.

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