Although some prominent women are in the forefront of Indian politics - Sonia Gandhi, Mayawati, Jayalalitha Jayaram and Mamata Banerjee and Sushma Swaraj - to name a few - the participation and presence of women in the political system is insignificant. This is despite the fact that sex equality and political rights for women are enshrined in the Constitution.
More than six decades after Independence, women have fewer than 10 percent of the seats in parliament; most laws passed in the name of women are passed by men. Until the reservation of 33 percent seats for women in local government bodies came into being in 1992, gender bias pervaded all levels of governance in India.
It is against this background of the continued stagnation and marginalization of women in the Indian polity that the demand to reserve one-third seats in local government and legislatures marks a turning point in the debate over gender equality. Women’s bid to challenge political monopolies and enter formal political institutions has generated much discussion, interest and opposition.
This roundtable will examine whether the debates about quotas for women and the failure of Parliament to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) for 15 years can help us to understand the wider debate with regard to the role of the political process and the deeper structural and power dynamics that affect the making of policies and laws.
Date: January 29, 2014
Location: AWARE Centre
Zoya Hasan is an Indian academic and a political scientist. She is currently a professor of political science and the dean of School of Social Sciences(SSS) at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and a former member of the National Commission for Minorities. Hasan's work has focused on ethnicity, politics, gender, and identity in north India. She is better known for her path breaking work on the politics of Uttar Pradesh. She has also done extensive research on social and educational aspects of Indian Muslim women.