To unravel the issue that surrounds the idea of representation in politics, one must delve deep into the history of social structures that were centred on power. History provides us with the information that men held positions of power over women. In a tribe or a group of people, a select individual or a group of individuals were selected as leaders and these individuals were the males who were deemed worthy of leading the clan. In many historical stories, it is quite easy to spot the importance put on the segregation of duties when it came to politics and running a state on the basis of gender.
Even at present, we are accustomed to having a male family member, be it the father or the brother, as the head of the family. This patriarchal thinking is not only entrenched in our familial lives, but it has successfully ensured that this way of thinking will continue to exist through oppressive practices in our contemporary society. This practice also makes it impossible to account for differences when it comes to the enormous gender spectrum that exists and informs us that our existence is not and should not be limited to binaries, especially when it comes to gender and sexuality.
Hence, the divide that exists when it comes to male and female representation in politics not only provides us with proof regarding female under-representation, but it also urges one to consider the implications of the lack of representation when it comes to including the communities in a nation that do not adhere to the gender binaries.
Now to address the under-representation of women in politics in India also forces us to acknowledge the gender gap and how it is that one of the world’s greatest democratic countries has failed to actively and equally represent women despite reservations that exist to ensure female participation in politics. India ranked 140 out of 156 according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2021. Indian society is infamous for its sexist, misogynist and patriarchal thinking which makes it difficult for women to thrive in politics.
Political figures such as Mamata Banerjee and Sonia Gandhi often face backlash and are subjected to crude and sexist comments. One such instance was when Congress Leader Digvijaya Singh in 2013, made a comment against Rahul Gandhi's aide Meenakshi Natarajan, calling her "sau tunch maal" - a slang used in North India to tease women. He tries to justify that the comment was meant as a compliment but it becomes clear that women are never respected and taken seriously when they occupy any position of power.
A recent example was when Lathika Subhash shaved her head to protest against the Congress Party when she was not given a ticket for state elections in Kerala. Her action was a tool to bring into light the lack of representation of women in politics.
Image: The Economic Times.
The most common assumption of such patriarchal thinking is that girls and women are not fit for any positions of power, they are only to become wives and perform their ‘homely’ duty of keeping their husbands happy and taking family heirloom further. India is a country where gender inequality is a major issue despite all the reservations made to bridge the gap. As long as the Indian society is burdened by the patriarchal ideology, reducing the disparity that exists due to gender inequality seems almost impossible.
Written by: Shreya Mukherjee
Edited by: Those Archaic Flaws