Will #HerVote Define the 2019 Elections?

By Avilasha Sarmah in Editor's Pick 28/02/2019

There is an inevitable gender gap amongst voters in India. Even in 2019, in the world’s second most populated democracy where women comprise half of the population, the gender gap is alarming. With the 2019 elections, will that be a change?

 

The case of women voting goes deeper into the crux of the entire feminist movement. The global think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, in their paper, “Will Women Decide India’s 2019 Elections” says that despite the under-representation of women as political candidates in 2019, women have had made a marked stride as voters.

 

According to the Trivedi Centre for Political Data, the female voter turnout has been more than men off late. This celebrated development is a big deal in a majorly patriarchal society like India. With the General Elections of 2014 recording the highest voter turnout – 66.4 %, female voter turnout is actually shown to surpass the male turnout.  Not just the National Elections, but also the State Assembly Elections (in 23 of the 30 states) have seen this surprising rise! This does not mean that numerically more women vote than men, men still are higher numerically.  This increase in the female voter participation is – greater female turnout among the female voters already registered.

 

This rising female participation in the elections, argues experts, actually has the capacity to influence the 2019 elections.

 

The rising voter turnout and growing political assertiveness of Indian women are making their voices and policy preferences increasingly noteworthy on the country’s political stage.”

 

In the light of these changing dynamics, Change.org conducted the #SheVotes survey. Voters were asked to list their top priorities among ‘40 issues likely to impact the Lok Sabha Elections 2019’. Among the 20,000 users surveyed across India, 16000 were males and 4000 females.

 

Women prioritized on ‘crimes against women’ at the topmost. Men, however, numbered it 15th on the priority list.

 

“Crime against women is certainly a matter of concern and is an issue, which is raised by all parties, but the problem lies in implementing solutions on the ground,” Brinda Karat, Rajya Sabha MP from CPI, told IANS.

 

Women voters also held that issues like education, freedom of choice –in religion and marriage – needed to be addressed.

 

There was another interesting observation. Women voters said that the politicians must give equal weight-age to and must strongly highlight the issues like marital rape, women and workplace, menstruation, girl child education, maternal health, and infant mortality.

 

For men, however, corruption, employment, and development of general infrastructure were the key priorities.

 

But again, it was found that there was a strong favor for more female candidates. Women seemed to be under-represented in the parliament, and on account of more equal representation of both sexes, respondents would vote for women candidates.

 

The survey found that – women expressed a greater desire to play significant and greater roles in democracy beyond just voting. Female voters did desire to directly engage with politicians but were wary of face to face communication. The most preferred vice has been the digital platform – in the form of digital petitions.

 

However, despite the rise in female participation in politics, be it as candidates, in the parliament and governance, and voting, the issues most highlighted by women were not given priority by men.

 

Change.org drew their conclusion with the notion that gender issues will definitely play a pivotal role in the upcoming general elections.

 

Of the 814.5 million registered voters in India to cast their vote in 2019, 63 million are believed to be young women. Furthermore with the statistical historic rise of women voters, women and women’s issues does seem to hold a promising place. In this regard, ‘her vote’ matters a great deal. It is believed to define a major course of the tide. But the real picture will only present itself this year, we can only hope for the ‘winds of change’!

 

Currently curating a creative team for Feministaa! Apart from that I am a wanderer who loves to write. Places call out to me and I enjoy making poetry out of moments. Do check out my book – “When the Cuckoo Called”.


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