Number of women in Indian parliament lower than global average: UN

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 12, 2012 14:30 hrs

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) India has much to celebrate with over one million elected women representatives in local self-governments, but the number of women in parliament is lower than the global average, a UN official said.

UN Under-Secretary General and UNDP Associate Administrator, Rebeca Grynspan said: "There is much to be celebrated in India. There are over one million elected women representatives in local self-governments thanks to mandatory quotas ranging from 33 to 50 percent. Yet there are only around 11 percent women in Parliament lower than the global average of 20 percent, still far from the 30 percent target set at Beijing."

The UNDP has called for the formation of a caucus of women political leaders across party lines to enhance women's participation within political parties and to advocate for the Women's Reservation Bill as a collective voice, said a statement here Friday.

The UNDP said that for affirmative action to happen - be it quotas in parliament or in political parties - mobilization of women around an integrated development agenda is critical. This was one of the key recommendations that emerged from the Roundtable on Women's Participation in Politics organised by the United Nations Development Programme.

Grynspan said: "More diverse participation in politics is not only good for women but is key for society and a strong democracy."

Ranjana Kumari, president of Women Power Connect and director of the Centre For Social Research, said that urgent action is needed on the long pending Women's Reservation Bill.

Participants pointed out that women are held back from entering politics because of social norms and deeply entrenched patriarchal mindsets.

Suhasini Ali of the Communist Party of India-Marxist said: "Women of India are already empowered. All they need is a safe political environment which provides a level playing field for their participation."

India ranks 129 out of 147 countries on UNDP's Gender Equality Index, lower than all South Asian countries except Afghanistan at 141. One of the key factors pulling down India's rank on this index is the low level of women's representation in Parliament at just under 11 percent.

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