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Apeksha Bagchi

IWB Blogger

Dr. Carole Spary On Women In Parliament And Why Their Presence Is Important From A Justice Perspective

  • IWB Post
  •  May 28, 2019

The Lok Sabha elections this year saw its usual rare share of women candidates but incidentally this time the highest number of women MPs were elected. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the Indian Parliament works on a gendered axis of power.


Exploring this very fact, the book Performing Representation is a comprehensive analysis of women in the Indian parliament and explores the possibilities of parliamentary democracy with the participation of women. Engaging in a chat with the author of the book, Dr. Carole Spary, Assistant Professor at the University Of Nottingham, IWB attempted to shed light on the gender-based nature of politics in India, the increase in the number of women candidates and its positive effects.

Excerpts: 

On women candidates faring better in the 2019 Elections and how can this very marginal increase give visibility & voice to women representation

 

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog It’s great that women’s presence in the Lok Sabha has increased in this election, and increased at a slightly higher rate than usual. But it’s also a good question whether this will translate into the representation of women’s interests (which are diverse) in parliament.

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Gender and politics scholars around the world have convincingly argued that having more women in parliament is important from a justice perspective – women have a right to participate. Once elected to parliament, that entails more analysis to understand what helps or hinders them

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog In our book Performing Representation, we focus on several aspects – a basic one is just how it feels to inhabit that space for women, whether they feel like they belong there, and more women can help. (Nirmal Puwar @spatialmutation has a great book on this, ‘Space Invaders’)

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @spatialmutation But there are also aspects like access to speaking rights in debates, especially high profile ones, and membership of committees, and also how party interests and other interests shape their priorities in parliament.

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @spatialmutation And we must also remember that it is also the responsibility of male MPs to raise issues that are important to women. Every male MP has female constituents.

 

On the opportunities and challenges the current Modi-led administration will offer

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog This is such an interesting question and to my mind brings forward several questions. Firstly, to what extent does the BJP’s manifesto for this parliament raise issues that women’s organisations find important?

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog We will find out what their more concrete legislative plans are soon from the President’s Address in the first session of parliament.

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Secondly, what kind of relationship does the ruling party have with women’s organisations, nationally but also in different states? What kind of opportunities are available for women’s organisations to contribute to helping set the agenda for policy-making and legislation?

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Thirdly, I’ve been really interested by the federal dynamic in India and how it interacts with women’s movement activism. Do women’s organisations find it more effective to look more to national government, state government, or both, or is it contingent on the issue at hand?

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog For e.g., Prof. Rajeshwari Deshpande at SPPU, Pune, discussed how legislation for domestic workers’ rights fared differently in different states because of the different political and social movement context – she compares Maharashtra and West Bengal. https://t.co/x3YfjwBmPr

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog There are plenty of other examples. Prof. Bina Agarwal has talked about gender and land rights across states, and Dr Nirmala Buch has talked about two-child norms in panchayats. Dr Gopika Solanki has talked about the Mahila Samakhya programme in different states.

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog Sometimes, I think if the centre passes a good law it can become diluted through implementation at the state level. Other times, the state level can enable innovative approaches that the national level is lagging on, or protect against regressive national laws. It’s very dynamic!

 

On distinct grassroots movement during the election

 

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog These are both such important issues. Elections are an excellent opportunity for making the public more aware of issues. I’m not an expert in movements/campaigns/activism (see work by @ProfSrilaRoy on Indian feminism or the recent campaigns of @PoliticalShakti) but … (1/2)

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @ProfSrilaRoy @PoliticalShakti …generating public awareness and support, and then using that public support to demonstrate to political parties that these are important issues the public care about. No guarantee, though. Windows of opportunities for change come as a result of a combination of complex factors

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @ProfSrilaRoy @PoliticalShakti And of course there are plenty of examples where public support is there and political parties openly support, but political will is not there. As my students and I are constantly discussing, change is hard. Even harder when progress can be undone.

On ‘Political Resistance’ after Elections 2019 and the new challenges it brings

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @ProfSrilaRoy @PoliticalShakti This is a difficult challenge and probably one best answered by political theorists, activists, and others with more knowledge of this concept. But from a personal level it’s one I’ve thought about in the context of recent shifts in global politics (e.g.

 

On the elections having transgender candidates

 

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @ProfSrilaRoy @PoliticalShakti While it will take more time and more acceptance before more transgender candidates contest elections, I have read about examples of excellent progress at the local level in India with transgender candidates getting elected. (1/2)

Dr Carole Spary on Twitter

@indianwomenblog @ProfSrilaRoy @PoliticalShakti And parties can help by fielding transgender candidates; any independent candidate finds it harder to get elected than a party-supported candidate. (2/2)

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