Of the 543 MPs who were elected to the 16th Lok Sabha, 61 are women. Although this is the highest number of women MPs elected in history, these women will make up only 11 percent of the political body.
On Thursday, May 8, SAI hosted a webinar about the role of women in Indian politics, with Lakshmi Iyer, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, who shared her extensive research in studying how to get more women involved in politics.
Iyer’s research shows that electing more women to political office results in a range of policy changes and development outcomes. Iyer also addressed several methods for increasing political representation of women, including quotas.
SAI checked in with Iyer and Meena Hewett of SAI to get their perspective on what the election results mean for women:
“This is an interesting analysis in all respects. Given my research interests, I was most interested in seeing the share of women in this recent Lok Sabha. While it is good to see 61 women elected to the Lok Sabha, the highest number ever, it is disheartening to find that the fraction of women in the Lok Sabha is still only 11.3%, having increased from 5% in the first Lok Sabha in 1952.
“This is extremely slow progress. A proximate determinant of this is the extremely low participation of women as political candidates: in the 2014 election, only 8% of Lok Sabha candidates were women, up from 7% in 2009. Civil society and political parties should be considering more effective ways to include women in the political process.”
–Lakshmi Iyer, Associate Professor of Business Administration,Harvard Business School
“Even though it is the highest number of women MPs ever elected to the Lok Sabha, the percentage of women representation is still low given that women make up approximately 40% of India’s population. In the previous election, the rate of increase of women representation was 3% compared to an increase of 0.3% this year. Is this progress? Not really. The status of women in India continues to remain low in every area of human development. Real progress will require gender mainstreaming in political representation.
“Specific measures would include reservation of seats in the political arena for women to give them equal opportunities in decision making at all state, district, and local Panchayat levels. Progress will also happen when national and state budgets are gender-focused and government’s investment and expenditures benefit women and girls in rural and urban areas. Public investments should ensure safe access to schools for girls and boys, and families should be encouraged and compensated for sending girls to school.”
–Meena Hewett, Executive Director, South Asia Institute
What do you think about the gender makeup of the 16th Lok Sabha? Share your thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #SAIwebinar.