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Women in politics: India ranks 105th in world

As the country celebrates Women's Day today, data on parliaments across the world reveal that India, the largest democracy, lags much behind other countries including its neighbours such as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal when it comes to women's participation in politics. With only 11 per cent of representation of women in Lok Sabha and 10.7 per cent in Rajya Sabha, India ranks 105th in the world, according to the latest comparative data released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an international organisation that works for promoting democracy in the world.

India, the world's largest democracy, has only 60 women lawmakers in the current 543-member Lok Sabha, while there are 24 women MPs out of 240 members in Rajya Sabha at present. Two seats in Lok Sabha and five in the Upper House have been lying vacant.

While India shares the 105th position with West African country Cote d'Ivoire, it is ranked 85 places below Nepal and 53 places behind Pakistan. Even China at 60th spot and Bangladesh at 65 are well above India, according to the IPU data that are based on information provided by Parliaments by December 31 last year.

Only Sri Lanka and Myanmar are the neighbouring countries which are placed below India at 129 and 134 spots in the list respectively.

This sordid picture of women's participation in politics in the country has led women activists to demand greater political representation and call for the passage of the bill that promises 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament.

Emphasising the importance of Women's Day in the Indian context, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat has said, "This is an occasion to put pressure on government to pass long-pending legislations that would be benefit women, like the Women's Reservation Bill."

All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) General Secretary Sudha Sundararaman also said if village panchayats can have 50 per cent reservation for women, then why cannot Parliament have 33 per cent.

"The government should stop paying lip service, and actually put words into action," she said.

Even in conflict-hit and resource-poor African countries like Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Tunisia and Tanzania, women seem to have fared well so far as their participation in national politics is concerned.

According to the IPU data, Rwanda tops the list with the highest number of women participation in politics in the world with having over 56 per cent of women representatives in the Lower House and more than 38 per cent in its Upper House.

With over 36 per cent women lawmakers, Tanzania is ranked at 18th place along with Spain. In Uganda (ranked 19), over 35 per cent of lawmakers are women, while Tunisia (34th) and South Sudan (35th) have over 26 per cent of female legislators.

Among the countries that have higher women participation in national politics included Andorra, a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, which is ranked second with over 50 per cent women legislators.

Then comes Cuba which has 265, or over 45 per cent, women in its 586-member Parliament, followed by Sweden with over 44 per cent women members in its parliament.
Rich and powerful countries like the US, Britain, Italy, France and Germany are ranked 78th, 53rd, 57th, 69th and 21st respectively.

There are eight countries -- such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Belize, Palau, Micronesia, Nauru and Solomon Islands -- which have zero women participation in their national politics.


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