Friday, February 8, 2008

India, Women, & Politics

Politics in India has been male-dominated for years. Underrepresented in politics and underutilized by political parties, the woman always remained in the distant background. As a female party worker, they were considered capable of handling only women’s issues. In a society that marginalized women and their issues, such a role hardly helped any woman to move up the political ladder. She rarely had the opportunity to influence significant policies and decisions. That women were nearly invisible in Indian politics would not have been far from the truth but for the fact that the world knows of powerful Indian women having led India... like the late Indian premier, Indira Gandhi. Politics was a legacy for the few women who did come to the forefront and shine in Indian politics.

Today, there are women who are leaders in their own right… Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu or Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, to name a few. Their regional muscle is just as impressive as their clout on national politics. These women entered politics and made it to the limelight, either through proximity to male leaders or sheer grit, reaching where they did owing to their capabilities as leaders.

The Indian political scene looks different as more women enter the fray, not just in cities but in rural India too. In fact, the women in the villages seem to have empowered themselves much more than their urban counterpart. While the urban woman sought her liberation through the corporate world, the rural woman found an outlet through politics.

The Indian government is increasing the reservation for women in the Parliament. Is that reason enough for the receptiveness of women in politics? The ordinary woman still finds it difficult to make her voice heard. The Indian male ego finds it hard to be subordinate to a woman easily. It appears that women have had to find a new route to the top… by setting up independent parties. On the other hand, once the woman has proved her mettle beyond doubt, male subordination to female leadership does not seem to matter much. It is the path between the beginning and reaching the top that tests the woman’s grit.

In an unequal society, women have a long winding path to scale before they can command the same respect that a male politician does.

One wonders if there will be a change in the way women political leaders/hopefuls are viewed if Hillary Clinton wins the election. Since America is the world leader, will a female leader in America change the world's sentiments towards women?

-Praveen Sequeira


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Anonymous said...

this was a wonderful article! simple, direct, and deep.

Women Aloud: Videoblogging for Empowerment said...

Thanks for posting this. I am working on an article about Pratibha Patil, India's first woman president and came across this...

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