The cost of the missing women in Indian politics


  • B.R. Ambedkar once said that “political power is the key to all social progress”. What, then, to make of the fact that India—a country where women suffer substantially greater socio-economic disadvantages than Western democracies like Spain—has a cabinet that is only 22% female and a Lok Sabha that has a meagre 12% female representation?

Effects of political representation of disadvantaged groups

  • Observing a member of their own group in charge of a public office changes attitudes and infuses confidence in the minority group.This may be referred to as the reporting channel
  • The second effect is an increase in the responsiveness of the official towards the pleas of disadvantaged groups.This is termed as the recording effect
  • The knock-on economic effects are apparent as well.
  • There is a strong connection between the implementation of political reservations and small-scale entrepreneurship among women

Status of women representation

  • The proportion of women in the Lok Sabha has seen only a paltry increase since independence—from 4.5% in the first Lok Sabha to the current 12% in the 16th Lok Sabha
  • The 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution in 1993 made it mandatory to earmark 33% of all positions in Panchayati raj institutions for women

Debate on the women’s reservation Bill:

  • Political parties in India tend not to follow provisions in their constitutions reserving seats for women in different committees
  • The second barrier is the lack of education and leadership training.Additionally, since women are not integrated in any local political process initially, and, unlike men, are not part of the relevant social and power networks, women leaders are prone to inefficiencies

Way Forward:

  • Socio-economic disadvantages lead to reduced opportunities for women to participate in the political process, leading to a weakened representation
  • There is a pressing need for education and leadership training to familiarize them with the local government functioning and instill in them a sense of agency


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