Empowerment of women in today’s era is aquintessential condition for good governance. Equality between sexes is alsobecoming an upcoming global political parameter. However the biggest setback isthe social construction around gender distinctions. Thoughthe constitution provides women the right to be elected in political and publicrepresentative institutions, such as parliament and local government bodies,gender inequality, as a collection of interlinked problems, is manifested inthe political arena too(Husain S. A, 2000). Inthis context, there have been vivid debates on the linkage between “goodgovernment” and “gender equality” over the past decade (Morna,2002).Hussain asserted that the sustainability of the economic and socialempowerment of women depends on the extent of their integration in thepolitical decision-making process (Husain and Siddiqi, 2002).
Politicalparticipation of women becomes a parameter of the availability of politicalrights to women. Until women participate actively in all levels of decisionmaking, equality and development in the country is elusive. The famous thinkerJohn Stuart Mill had stated that for the government to be efficient, the voicesof both majority and minority has to be heard. For him women formed theminority at that time.Genderequality means no discrimination and special measures need to be taken for theupliftment of women but not every differentiation can be said to bediscriminatory. Discrimination is de jure when it is envisaged by law,de facto when although the law is non-discriminatory, discrimination exists inpractice (FAO legislative study, 05) InOn Liberty, Mill discussed ways to represent and articulate competinginterests, and emphasized the importance of tolerating different views fromdifferent quarters (Reynolds, 1999, 547-8).
In “Considerations onRepresentative Government”, Mill talked about bringing intellectual diversityin the government by including women extending them franchise. In TheSubjection of Women, Mill stated that the idea of denying suffrage to half ofthe population and thus losing their talents in society was “nonutilitarian idiocy”(Reynolds, 1999, 547-8).Rule and Zimmerman argue that aparliament would fail to recognize or comprehend issues of great importance towomen in society if there were few women members, an observation which raisesbroader questions of answerability, openness, and isolation (Reynolds, 1999,547-8). It was observed that A balanced representation of women and men at alllevels of decision-making guarantees better government (The European Network ofExperts, 1997, 8). Television, radio, and newspapers should helppolicy-makers and administrators realize the importance of gender inequalityand also work to stimulate women to reorganize their roles and affirmthemselves as the equal partners of men in all sectors ( Haque, 2003,586).
Further the onus rests on the government to open up opportunities forwomen and safeguard their legal rights. It requires the active involvement ofthe Ministry of Women and Child Development. 2. Role of women in politicsAs a group, women have their own ideas and values making adistinct behavioural pattern given their specific history. Their participationwill further will give a new dimension to the exercise of power.Women are less individualistic and hence are able to maintain good contact withothers. Lister has pointed out that policy institutions and policy processesmust be representative of women, as women hold specific interests that aredifferent from men’s (Lister, 1997, 154)Chowdhuryoffers five reasons why increasing women’s representation and participation isnecessary: (i) It is a question of democracy and equality as well as a questionof civil rights making the demand for proportional representation of women inpolitics unavoidable, (ii) Women’s insignificant presence in politics raisesquestions about the legitimacy of the democratic process and of decision-makingauthorities, (iii) Women are well informed and experienced about their basicproblems and needs.
But they will be deprived of equal shares if they are notproperly represented in politics, (iv) Women’s increased participation inpolitics and decision-making bodies will facilitate more changes and open upmore spaces for them, (v) Finally, for the efficient and maximum utilization ofhuman resources, women should be increasingly allowed in politics (Chowdhury,1994, 21).Democracywill be in question if women, constituting half of the population, remainabsent from the different institutions of a society (Haque, 2003,584).Therefore we see that women participation is very important to legitimizethe government. To understand gender issues more vividly in India, it is veryimportant to shed some light on the decision making opportunities in everyinstitution and the gender gap that persists .
Assumptions regarding thedivision between private and public worlds strongly limit the participation ofwomen in decision-making institutions (Nussbaum , 2003, 5).Be it the privatedomain or the public domain , it is men who always exercise an upper hand andtry to either patronize or criticize what women has to offer.