Reservation of Women in the Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) is not translated into a corresponding increase in women’s representation in India’s state legislatures. Bringing out the reasons for the same, discuss how the under-representation of women in state legislatures can be corrected.

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act made it mandatory for the states to provide at least 33% reservation for women in PRIs. Some states like Bihar have increased it to 50% as well. Women in the legislature constitute a mere 10% of the total, whereas states like Bihar have nearly 14% but states like Mizoram, & Nagaland have none.

Reasons for skewed representation of women in the state legislature:

  • State legislatures provide for no compulsory representation for women.
  • The existence of Sarpanch Pati or pseudo representation at PRIs does not help translate women’s participation in the state legislature.
  • Patriarchal mindsets and stereotypes related to politics being a game for men still remain deeply penetrated in society.
  • The stigmatization of women in politics demeans their self-esteem.
  • Caste and class barriers and excessive use of money and muscle power also inhibit women’s representation.
  • Criminal-Bureaucrat-Politician Nexus plays against women at large.

Measures to improve women’s representation at state legislatures:

  • A minimum percentage of seats can be reserved for women in the state legislature.
  • Taking stringent action against pseudo representatives at the PRI level.
  • Increasing and encouraging women’s participation in the electoral process at the college level.
  • The Election Commission of India can ensure free and fair elections by checking the use of money-muscle power.
  • Fundamental reforms at the party level will serve as a necessary complement.
  • Deconstructing the stereotypes associated with women’s participation in politics and overall decriminalization of politics.

Recently there has been a demand for compulsory reservation of Women in Lok Sabha for at least 1/3rd seats. However, it must be noted that overall societal upliftment and change in mindset, complemented with education and financial independence is the key.

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