Female electorate a neglected lot?

Even as the last Delhi Assembly election saw an unconventional political mobilisation, what came as a surprise was that the City recorded the lowest percentage of women voters who exercised their franchise.

According to the Election Commission’s data of 2014, released by the Commission on February 14, of the 814,591,184 voters, Delhi has the lowest proportion of female voters at 44.57 per cent, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 45.2 per cent.

Why so? “Competitive electoral politics is not able to attract the imagination of female voters, whether she is economically upward or not,” says Asha Sarangi, professor, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Explaining her point she says, “Once a woman achieves a certain level of economic standard, she is more interested in governance not politics. She no longer considers politics to be a game changer in her life. Psychologically, she has achieved a sense of identity and she remains confined to it. ”

“On the hand, women from the financially weaker section of the society, like our domestic help, will be keen to ensure their daily wage rather than casting their votes. In both the cases, the Government has been failing to instil confidence among women voters,” says the professor.

According to her the decision taken by political parties are influenced by election outcome where female population is a neglected lot.

Another political scientist, Vidhu Verma, points out that poor sex ratio is the reason behind the figure released by EC. Interestingly, it draws the attention towards the phrase ‘missing women’ which was coined by Amartya Sen when he showed that in parts of the developing world, the ratio of women to men in the population is suspiciously low.

“It is because of gender discrimination. Preference of boys at the time of birth and poor treatment of young girls especially those who are economically weaker,” says Vidhu. Ironically, the number of missing women has increased “as a result female electorate is also missing from the democracy,” she says.

Meanwhile, many reports say that India does not hold a good position in the Gender Inequality Index (GII) of the World Bank. The GII records the loss in achievement within a country due to gender inequality and is based on measures of health, labour-force participation and empowerment.

Considering the social and political discrimination, the solution somewhere lies in the passage of Women’s Reservation Bill which proposes to reserve a third of all legislature seats for women, at national and State levels in India.

Undoubtedly, it will play a crucial role in abating gender inequality. Meanwhile, Meera Bajpai, a housewife, who couldn’t vote in the Delhi Assembly election, cites the problem of commuting from her place to the ward where she was issued the voter id card from. “I used to stay in Punjabi Bagh earlier. Therefore, my name is registered in that ward. But last year I shifted to Green Park. So, I couldn’t manage to go all the way to Punjabi Bagh to cast my vote,” says Meera.

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