Though Tamil Nadu has witnessed powerful women politicians including our former Chief minister, Ms J Jayalalithaa, only five percent of the total (234) elected candidates are women in the recently concluded Assembly elections, i.e. there are only 12 women MLAs – seven from the DMK team and five from the AIADMK team. This is one of the lowest ratio of women MLAs in the country at the moment. It is to be noted that this is a drop from the previous elections. In the 2016 State election, we had 21 women MLAs, 16 from AIADMK team and 5 from DMK team. That was 9%. So clearly there’s a decline in the number of women elected this year though the number contested was higher than the last time.
To be precise, in 2016 about a total of 3776 candidates contested in the State Assembly elections out of which 323 were women (323/3776), approximately 8.5 percent. In 2021, the total number of candidates were around 3998 among which 411 were women (411/3998), approximately 10 percent.
We see political parties (be it the major parties like DMK, AIADMK or the younger ones like MNM AND NTK) constantly insisting on more women participation. Almost all political parties across the country are advocating for a Women’s Reservation Bill, but in reality the seats allotted for women are substantially less.
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) had fielded a total of 12 women candidates from its list of 173, about 6.9 percent of the total candidates, a ratio that is even lesser from the party’s own allocation during the last elections. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) fielded 14 women candidates from its list of 171, barely 8 percent. However, Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) allotted 50 percent of its seats to women candidates.
In a state where 50 percent of the population comprises of women, it is unfortunate to have such low numbers being fielded by the major political parties. We have very few women venturing into politics even after all these years. There is a compulsive need for higher women representations in the State politics.
Commenting on why the percentage of women coming to the contesting level is very low, Tara Krishnaswamy, Co-founder of Political Shakti said, “We have women at the grassroots level, but they aren’t coming to the contesting level because parties are denying them tickets. In Tamil Nadu State Assembly Elections 2021, both the main parties hardly gave any seats to women candidates (6 – 8 percent). So, the real problem is not the lack of interest of women in politics, the real problem is that the
parties are patriarchal entities and are not giving a chance for women to contest. In such a scenario where is the question of winning? Across the country this is a problem. In Tamil Nadu, despite being a state where educational achievements, employment opportunities and gender equity are better, political empowerment of women is very low.
The second biggest challenge is that when women run for elections, the entire political atmosphere is dismissive. Nasty comments are made. When it comes to women they take it personal and sexual comments seem very common and men think it is perfectly fine. This type of behaviour keeps women away from politics. The Third challenge is the lack of role models; I’m not talking about one Jayalalithaa, one Sonia Gandhi. Just like we see hundreds of women IT professionals and teachers we need many more women politicians for young women to aspire politics and take it up as career, “opines Tara.
By demographic, female voters outnumbered their male counterparts in the State elections. About 50 percent of the State’s population constitute women and only five percent are at the helm making policies and decisions. Though we have a lot schemes focusing on women’s safety, education and jobs already and the parties have promised a lot of schemes for women in their manifestos we do lack behind in power.
With the Women’s Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008, pending in the Parliament of India which proposes to amend the Constitution of India to reserve 1/3rd of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all State legislative assemblies for women, the states need more women to take up politics as a career option and we need the political parties to move away from its Patriarchal mind sets and be more encouraging of the common woman’s participation.