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Hearing The Unheard, Voicing The Unvoiced : Gender And Politics

Image Credits: Oxfam India

The entire canon of gender studies is inclusively intertwined with the domain of politics. The 2005 Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Accountability Report states, “[m]en, across virtually all cultures, are socialised to see politics as a legitimate sphere for them to act in”. Politics has long been the domain of the men, or rather their ‘domicile’. Given the inflexibility to welcome women into the political sphere. There exists a perpetuation of male dominance and infringement upon women in the domestic sphere. The absence of their political participation has become the norm of today. The societal mindset remains ingrained in sheer patriarchal stereotyping. Women being passive recipients, face adverse educational impediments. They lack both infrastructural as well as moral support. This ultimately entails a false idyllic microcosm of the nation. A political power in place seeks to promise female empowerment in the country. Yet it fails to acknowledge their presence within the organisation itself. More or less, women's rights in the constitution remain de jure in implementation. A strong revolutionary mindset of the authority in power is absent.


Underlying Causes of Less Female Participation

This gender inequality scales itself on a double-edged sword i.e., both demand (agency) and supply (receptivity) of women. The bias of the voters and parties involved creates barriers to women’s under-representation in the political domain. This creates a psychological bias in women standing up for candidature. According to some renowned sources, “the average number of women contestants in Indian legislative assemblies is only 6.7% and only 7.51% of women represent around half the population of India.”  There exists a feeling of incapability to actualize their potential, to hold their stand in the Parliament. Under-representation stems from the under-estimation of their potential. It creates homogenised perspectives of women’s expectations. A recent example is the overly generalised view of menstruation as a natural phenomenon in workplaces for women. It negates the importance of paid menstrual leave. It also overlooks the opinion of a majority of women undergoing menstruation. While this does not hold for the majority of women in the country, these statements can build pseudo-normative burdens for women to follow. Several nations weigh differently on the different parameters of socio-economic indices. However, they remain coincidental in women’s representation in parliaments and offices.


Through the Lens of Literature

Even in literature, women have long been endured as instruments of social change. They are viewed as passive devices that would add to the material ascent and authoritarian position of men. One perfect example is 'The Madwoman in the Attic” by Bertha Mason. In the book the authoritarian position of men completely mutes the women's voices. They are rendered a cold shoulder. The permanent isolation and repression of women are ultimately portrayed as an inherent madness. The entire trap is set up to curb her freedom and make her impermissible for having a voice. Her assertiveness is moulded to present her as dehumanising. This parallels with the state of women in legislation. Their existence is curbed to a point that their voices remain ineffective in creating a change.


Women’s direct representation seems a bold move for the patriarchal paradigm (which earlier believed in women’s passive resistance as a key to asserting their authority. Simone de Beauvoir's famous statement in the ‘Second Sex’ Book: “One is not born a woman, but is made one.” strikes the right chords in analysing a (not-so) normative vision of femininity: soft resilience. However, this soft power can turn out to be revolutionary when society tends to realise women's potential. Representation of women in the political landscape is a prerequisite to ensure gender equality in the masses. This does not mean a solo-representation. Rather a de-facto-multi-representation holds the key for true democracy. Multiple representatives would take into account multiple perspectives. The differences thus created would lead to the creation of novice laws and protection for women.


Addressing the Issue


(Image Source Global South Development Magazine)

Image Credits: Global South Development Magazine


People tend to undermine the lucrative outcomes women can bring through entering the political sphere. Gender quotas can serve as one of the benefactors in the advocacy of women’s rights and participation. After much rebuttal and struggle, India triumphed in ensuring one-third of women's representation in the Lok Sabha. International incentives can advocate the implementation of gender quotas through their agency as instrumental in democratising nations. For instance, when nations become signatories to an international agreement, they abide by its terms and conditions through enforcement of novice laws and regulations. Gender equality and gender diversity in Parliament being one of those goals, can aid in amplifying the scope of its effective implementation.


However, this does not guarantee certainty in reservation. Intersectionality in gender quotas is an important phenomenon that cannot go unnoticed. Various other dividing factors such as geography, caste, disability and age aggravate the situation. They are often referred to as “doubly jeopardised”. According to a feature article by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the marital status of a woman too is judged and challenged to undermine her decision-making power. The repugnant criticism faced by doubly marginalized women is quite ambiguous in determining their position, especially when racist ideologies catalyse egregious crimes like rape as seen in the case of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan. 


Various training programmes and mentoring sessions should be held at both local and national levels to boost their self-confidence. Effective mentor guidance can help them overcome the fear of expression and visibility. This undoes the injustice and oppression women have gone through in the political sphere. Rebuilding self-worth and recognising their crucial role in the legislative domain will be rightly achieved.


The Way Ahead

Changes at the grassroots level are the key to an equitable democracy. Here, women and girls can get the right to interact and engage. The engendering process of growing up can hamper a girl’s ability to express herself. This becomes a hindrance in asserting her beliefs and opinions which needs to be ceased. The government acts as a mirror to society. An increase in female participation here can foster greater inclusion in the workforce. Their direct representation can resolve the loopholes in policies, which otherwise would not have been deemed necessary.


Edited By: Nargiz & Georgiana


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