Challenges and Strategies for Women’s Political Representation in India UPSC


  • The 2024 Lok Sabha elections are a significant moment in India’s political history. Despite various achievements, women’s representation has declined. The 18th Lok Sabha will have only 74 women MPs, making up just 13.6% of the total, a drop from 14.4% in 2019.
  • This decrease is notable, especially since these elections followed the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill, which aims to reserve one-third of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies once implemented.
  • At the time of the bill’s passage, about 14 per cent of Lok Sabha legislators were women. While that represents India’s highest proportion since its independence, it was far below the global average of 26.5 per cent, or the Central and Southern Asia average of 19 per cent.

change in womens strength in lok sabha

See this: UPSC Civil Services Prelims Exam 2024 Question Papers PDF Download

Causes of the low political representation of women in India

  • The low political representation of women in India can be attributed to a combination of socio-cultural, economic, and political factors. Here are some key reasons:

a) Socio-Cultural Factors

  • Patriarchal Society: Indian society is predominantly patriarchal, which restricts women’s roles to domestic spheres and perpetuates gender biases. This mindset limits women’s participation in public and political life.
  • Cultural Norms and Stereotypes: Traditional cultural norms and stereotypes often dictate that politics is a male domain. Women are often expected to prioritize family responsibilities over public or political roles, limiting their availability and time for political activities. Women who enter politics face scrutiny and are often not taken seriously.
  • Time Constraints and Dual Responsibilities: Women often have to balance their political aspirations with household responsibilities, making it challenging to devote the necessary time to political activities.
  • Lack of Education and Awareness: Women’s literacy and education rates are lower compared to men in India, which affects their awareness and understanding of political processes and their ability to engage in politics. And at present, the women’s literacy rate is about 77% while India’s male literacy rate stands at 84.7%.

b) Economic Factors

  • Economic dependence on male family members restricts women’s ability to campaign and run for political office, which often requires significant financial resources.

c) Political Factors

  • Political Party Dynamics: Political parties in India often hesitate to field female candidates, perceiving them as less likely to win. Women are frequently given tickets to contest elections only in areas where parties have little chance of winning, often referred to as “symbolic” representation.
  • Reservation Policies: While there are reservations for women in local governance (Panchayati Raj Institutions), similar quotas are not implemented at higher levels like state legislatures and the national parliament.
      • The Women’s Reservation Bill, which proposes reserving 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women, has just recently been passed after being pending for years.
  • Lack of Role Models: There are relatively few female political leaders in India, which means there are fewer role models for aspiring women politicians to emulate.

d) Institutional Barriers

  • Structural and institutional barriers within political parties and electoral processes can disadvantage women. These include male-dominated networks and lack of mentorship opportunities for women within political parties.

e) Psychological and Perceptual Barriers

  • Low Self-Efficacy: Societal norms and historical exclusion can lead to lower self-confidence among women regarding their abilities to succeed in politics.
  • Perception of Politics as ‘Dirty’: Politics in India is often viewed as corrupt and ‘dirty,’ which can dissuade women, who may be more risk-averse to such negative perceptions, from participating.

Addressing these issues requires a multifaceted approach, including legal reforms, changes in party structures, societal attitude shifts, and targeted programs to empower and support women in politics.

 Need for greater political empowerment of Women in India

  • Greater political representation and empowerment of women in India are essential for several reasons:

a) Inclusive Governance:

  • Women’s perspectives and experiences differ from men’s, and their inclusion in governance ensures that policies and laws address the needs and interests of the entire population. This leads to more comprehensive and inclusive decision-making.

b) Gender Equality:

  • Political representation is a fundamental aspect of gender equality. Increasing women’s representation in political offices is crucial for achieving gender parity in all areas of society.

c) Better Social Outcomes:

  • Studies have shown that women leaders tend to prioritize issues such as health, education, and welfare, which directly impact the well-being of families and communities. Greater representation can lead to improved social outcomes.

d) Role Models:

  • Female political leaders serve as role models and can inspire other women and girls to pursue leadership roles, not just in politics but in various sectors. This can gradually change societal attitudes towards women’s capabilities and roles.

e) Improving Governance and Reducing Corruption:

  • Research indicates that women’s participation in politics is associated with better governance and lower levels of corruption. Women often bring a different approach to leadership and governance that can be more collaborative and transparent.

f) Human Rights and Justice:

  • Women’s representation in politics is essential for protecting and promoting women’s rights and addressing issues such as gender-based violence, discrimination, and inequalities in the legal system.

g) Democratic Strengthening:

  • A democracy is stronger and more legitimate when it represents the voices of all its citizens, including women. Ensuring women’s political representation strengthens democratic institutions and processes.

h) Balanced Decision-Making:

  • Women’s unique experiences and viewpoints contribute to more balanced and holistic decision-making. This diversity of thought is crucial in addressing complex societal issues.

i) International Commitments:

  • India has committed to various international agreements and conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which call for gender equality and women’s empowerment, including political representation.

j) Addressing Systemic Inequalities:

  • Increasing women’s political representation helps to challenge and dismantle systemic inequalities and patriarchal structures that have historically marginalized women.

Promoting greater political representation and empowerment of women is not just a matter of fairness and justice but also a practical necessity for achieving comprehensive, sustainable, and inclusive development.

Measures undertaken in India to politically empower women

  • Several measures have been undertaken in India to politically empower women and increase their participation in the political process. These measures span legislative actions, policies, and initiatives at various levels of government. Key measures include:

a) Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) Reservations:

  • The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments (1992) mandate one-third reservation of seats for women in Panchayats (village councils) and Municipalities. This has significantly increased women’s participation in local governance.

b) Women’s Reservation Bill:

  • The Women’s Reservation Bill (128th Amendment), that seeks to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) and all state legislative assemblies for women, has been passed by the Parliament. This legislative measure can ensure a significant increase in women’s representation at higher levels of governance.

c) Legislative Measures:

  • Specific legislative measures aimed at addressing gender-based violence and discrimination, such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act (2013), create a safer environment for women, enabling their increased participation in public life.

d) Economic Support and Self-Help Groups:

  • Programs supporting women’s economic empowerment, such as the formation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs), indirectly contribute to political empowerment. Economic independence gives women the confidence and resources to engage in political activities.

e) Gender Budgeting:

  • The concept of gender budgeting involves allocating resources specifically for programs that benefit women, including those aimed at increasing their political participation and representation. Gender Budgeting has been adopted by the Government of India as a powerful tool for promoting gender equality and ensuring adequate budgetary provisions through gender responsive planning and budgeting processes.

f) International Collaborations and Programs:

  • India participates in international programs and collaborates with organizations such as UN Women and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to enhance women’s political participation.

Further enhancing the political empowerment of women in India

  • To further enhance the political representation and empowerment of women in India, a multifaceted approach is necessary. Here are some key recommendations for the way forward:

a) Expand Reservations in PRIs:

  • Building on the success of reservations in Panchayati Raj Institutions, these quotas should be extended to more local bodies and should also be increased to ensure deeper penetration of women’s representation at grassroots levels.

b) Strengthen Political Party Quotas:

  • Political parties should adopt and enforce internal quotas for women candidates. Mandating a minimum percentage of women candidates in elections can ensure that more women have the opportunity to run for office.

c) Enhance Education and Awareness:

  • Focus on improving women’s literacy and education rates. Educated women are more likely to participate in politics. Public awareness campaigns should also be intensified to challenge stereotypes and encourage societal support for women in politics.

d) Economic Empowerment Programs:

  • Enhance economic empowerment programs for women, such as skill development and microfinance initiatives. Financial independence is a critical factor enabling women to engage in political activities.

e) Capacity Building and Training:

  • Implement extensive training programs for potential and existing women leaders. These programs should cover political processes, leadership skills, public speaking, and campaign strategies. Initiatives like the ‘She Leads’ program provide mentorship to aspiring women politicians, offering guidance, resources, and networking opportunities.

f) Media Representation:

  • Encourage fair and positive media representation of women politicians. Media plays a crucial role in shaping public perceptions and can help in normalizing the presence of women in politics.

g) Engage Men as Allies:

  • Engage men in efforts to promote gender equality in politics. Men in leadership positions should champion and support women’s political participation and address gender biases within their parties and institutions.

h) Policy and Institutional Reforms:

  • Advocate for policy and institutional reforms that make political systems more inclusive and supportive of women’s participation. This includes reforms in campaign finance, electoral processes, and party structures.

i) Research and Data Collection:

  • Conduct research and collect data on women’s political participation to identify barriers and monitor progress. Evidence-based policies and interventions can be more effective in addressing specific challenges.

j) International Collaboration:

  • Collaborate with international organizations and adopt best practices from countries with higher levels of women’s political representation. Learning from global experiences can provide valuable insights and strategies.

k) Public Campaigns and Advocacy:

  • Continuous advocacy and public campaigns by civil society, NGOs, and media to keep the issue of women’s political representation in the public eye and to pressure stakeholders for reforms.

By implementing these strategies, India can create a more inclusive and equitable political landscape, where women have equal opportunities to participate and lead. 


  • In conclusion, increasing the political representation and empowerment of women in India is essential for fostering inclusive governance, promoting gender equality, and ensuring balanced decision-making.
  • Despite various challenges rooted in cultural norms, economic constraints, and systemic barriers, significant strides have been made through measures like reservations in local governance, legislative efforts, and capacity-building programs.
  • However, to achieve substantial and sustainable progress, a comprehensive approach is needed. This includes passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, enhancing education and economic opportunities for women, implementing internal quotas within political parties, and creating a supportive environment free from violence and discrimination.
  • Engaging men as allies, promoting mentorship, and leveraging international best practices will further bolster these efforts. By adopting these strategies, India can move towards a more equitable and democratic society where women play a pivotal role in shaping the nation’s future.

Answer Writing Practice for UPSC Mains

Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures (GS Mains Paper 2)

  • Analyze the multifaceted challenges faced by women in achieving political representation in India and suggest comprehensive strategies to overcome these barriers, ensuring gender equality in the political sphere. (Answer in 250 words) 

Note: The Model Answer to the Mains Questions are provided to the online/offline students of TarunIAS as classroom notes.




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