UPSC MAINS SOCIOLOGY SYLLABUS
(vii) Challenges of Social Transformation:
(a) Crisis of development: displacement, environmental problems and sustainability.
(b) Poverty, deprivation and inequalities.
(c) Violence against women.
(d) Caste conflicts.
(e) Ethnic conflicts, communalism, religious revivalism.
(f) Illiteracy and disparities in education
The under-representation of women at any level of governance and decision-making results in a democratic deficit. It has been proven time and again that diverse groups make better decisions. This is particularly true when it comes to a task as challenging as representing the interests of citizens at the local level. Often influencing policies in housing, security, transport, and the economy, local government makes important decisions that affect the lives of women and men. Women’s equal participation and representation in local decision-making processes is critical for prioritizing women’s practical needs and issues in local governments’ agendas and for localizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Gender-balanced local councils may be an important step in helping to attain gender balance at the national levels.
Elections in India have witnessed a striking contrast in recent times. The female voter turnout has increased in the country. Seven out of eight states that went to the polls in 2022 saw a jump in female voter turnout. Though this sounds promising, the increasing proportion of women voters seen in local, state and general elections has not translated into more women contesting elections. As per data compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in India, women make up 14.44 per cent of the Lok Sabha. A glance at the data in the latest available report of the Election Commission of India (ECI), shows that women represent 10.5 per cent of all Members of Parliament as of October 2021. For all the state assemblies, female MLAs’ representation stands at an average of 9 per cent.
As per Indian Administrative Services (IAS) data and the central government’s employment census of 2011, less than 11 per cent of its total employees were women. In 2020, this reached 13 per cent. In fact, out of a total of 11,569 IAS officers entering service between 1951 and 2020, only 1,527 were women. Further, only 14 per cent of Secretaries in the IAS were women in 2022 — 13 out of 92 posts. A quick look at other sectors shows that the situation is no better. Only 20.37 per cent of MSME owners are women, 10 per cent of start-ups are founded by females, and 23.3 per cent of women are in the labour force.
As of 1 January 2023, there are 31 countries where 34 women serve as Heads of State and/or Government. At the current rate, gender equality in the highest positions of power will not be reached for another 130 years. Just 17 countries have a woman Head of State, and 19 countries have a woman Head of Government. First-time compiled data by UN Women show that women represent 22.8 percent of Cabinet members heading Ministries, leading a policy area as of 1 January 2023. There are only 13 countries in which women hold 50 percent or more of the positions of Cabinet Ministers leading policy areas.
Only 26.5 per cent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses are women, up from 11 per cent in 1995. Only six countries have 50 per cent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses: Rwanda (61 per cent), Cuba (53 per cent), Nicaragua (52 per cent), Mexico (50 per cent), New Zealand (50 per cent), and the United Arab Emirates (50 per cent).
REASONS FOR LOW POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND LOW REPRESENTATION IN BUREAUCRACY
- About half the world’s population feel men make better political leaders as per UNDP Gender Social Norms Index. Such prejudice is an obstacle for women.
- Role of Money power in politics makes it harder for women to enter the political forum.
- Women in India are often expected to conform to traditional gender roles and are discouraged from pursuing careers in politics. Social norms and stereotypes dictate that women should prioritize their roles as wives and mothers, and politics is often considered a man’s domain.
- Women in India have historically had limited access to education, which has hindered their ability to participate in politics.
- Women are often underrepresented in political parties, making it difficult for them to rise through the ranks and secure party nominations for elections.
- Women in politics are often subjected to violence and harassment, both physical and online, which can deter them from entering politics or speaking out on issues. The lack of safe and inclusive spaces in politics is a significant barrier to women’s participation.
- Structural impediments to women’s empowerment, in general, are the primary issues that make it difficult for them to be a part of the services.
- Service conditions involving postings in distant cadres, patriarchal conditioning and balancing family commitments along with the requirements of this job are some of the social factors that lead women to opt out of the civil services.
- While most countries in the world have not achieved gender parity, gender quotas have substantially contributed to progress over the years. In countries with legislated candidate quotas, women’s representation is five percentage points and seven percentage points higher in parliaments and local government, respectively, compared to countries without such legislation
- One of the most effective ways to increase women’s representation in politics is to reserve seats for women in legislative bodies.
- Education and training programs can be conducted to empower women to participate in politics.
- Violence against women in politics is a significant barrier to their effective representation. Steps such as raising awareness, creating safe environment etc, should be taken to address this issue and ensure the safety and security of women in politics.
- Women’s effective representation in politics can be hindered by social and cultural barriers such as patriarchy and gender norms. These issues should be addressed through campaigns, education and awareness programs, and social reform initiatives like Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme, Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana.
The exclusion of women from decision-making bodies limits the possibilities for entrenching the principles of democracy in a society, hindering economic development and discouraging the attainment of gender equality. If men monopolize the political process, passing laws which affect society at large, the decision – making process does not always balance the interests of the male and female populations. As noted in the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), women’s equal participation with men in power and decision making is part of their fundamental right to participate in political life, and at the core of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Evidence suggests that when women are elected to political positions, they can make a difference for girls and women and strongly impact legislation. In many cases, women are more likely to pursue inclusive policies and respond to constituent concerns. They tend to push for positive change around health, community wellbeing, poverty reduction, and family welfare, and are more likely to strive to reach a consensus on policies.