Where the women are


Don’t remember whether I posted this earlier.

C.V. Madhukar, Where the women are, Indian Express, June 26, 2008.

The Women’s Reservation Bill that has been introduced in Parliament is being intensely debated in the parliamentary standing committee and other forums. In an effort to understand the current nature of participation of women MLAs in state assemblies across the country, PRS Legislative Research analysed the affidavits of women MLAs posted on the Election Commission website. The only exception was Jammu and Kashmir for which data was not easily available.

The first aspect we looked at was the extent to which women were elected in state assemblies across the country. Out of a total of 4,120 MLAs in 28 states and two union territories, there were a total of 280 women — under 7 per cent of all MLAs compared to about 9.5 per cent women MPs in Lok Sabha.

West Bengal has the highest percentage of women MLAs in the country (nearly 13 per cent) in a 294 member assembly. A region-wise look at the data throws up some surprises. States with no women MLAs include Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Manipur and Puducherry. Assam leads the group of north eastern states with 10.3 per cent of its assembly being represented by women. Goa (40 assembly seats) and Tripura (60 assembly seats) have only one woman MLA each.

Among the southern states, Tamil Nadu tops the list with 9.4 per cent women MLAs followed by Andhra Pradesh with 8.8 per cent. Kerala is surprisingly behind with about 5 percent women represented in the state assembly, while the new Karnataka assembly has a measly 1.3 per cent women. Leaders among the Hindi speaking states are Haryana (12.2 per cent), Bihar (10.3 per cent), Delhi (10 per cent), and Madhya Pradesh (8.3 per cent).

Congress and BJP account for about 25 per cent women MLAs each. CPI/ CPM account for about 14 per cent while the remaining 36 per cent belong to other parties. About 58 per cent of women MLAs fall in the age-group of 40-60 years with some regional variations. About 15 per cent of all women MLAs are ‘widowed.’

There is a sharp contrast in the education levels of women MLAs and women MPs in the Lok Sabha. While over 45 per cent of women MLAs have indicated 12th standard or less as their education qualification, almost 90 per cent women MPs have at least a college degree. Bihar has the highest number of women candidates who do not have any college education. Surprisingly, in Kerala, despite its stellar record on the literacy front, about half of its women MLAs have educational qualifications of 12th standard or less.

Eleven states (Assam, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Rajasthan, Tripura, Sikkim and Uttarakhand) take the honours for having no criminal records against any of their women MLAs. Kerala has the highest percentage (about 70 per cent) of women MLAs with criminal cases pending against them, followed by Bihar and Chhattisgarh (25 per cent each).How rich are our women MLAs? About 20 per cent of all women MLAs have stated that their assets (including that of their spouse and dependents) are less than Rs 5 lakh. About 45 per cent of all women MLAs have stated that their assets are between Rs 5 lakh and Rs 50 lakh. The remaining 35 per cent have declared assets in excess of Rs 50 lakh. The richest women MLAs are from Himachal Pradesh (with most of the women MLAs having assets over Rs 50 lakh) followed by Maharashtra and Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.

The nature of women’s representation seems to be qualitatively different at the various levels of government. The Lok Sabha has seen an increasing trend in the percentage of women MPs (currently over 9 per cent), while the representation at the state level is under 7 per cent, and at the panchayat level it is about 37 per cent. There is a need to take up deeper analysis of this important aspect of our democratic system.

The data presented here is a first-cut effort and more rigorous analysis can be done to learn about different aspects of women’s participation in the electoral process. There are several instances where some information was not legible. It was also not possible to assign monetary values for a number of declarations of assets such as property owned. Therefore the data we have provided understates the value of the assets. Despite these caveats, the data helps to draw a fair picture about our women elected representatives across the country, which we hope will be useful in making decisions about the issue of reservations for women in the electoral space.The writers work with PRS Legislative Research, New Delhi


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