Strulik, Stefanie
December 2007
Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies;2007, Vol. 14 Issue 2, p53
Academic Journal
The attempt by the Indian government to increase women's political participation in local governance, from next to non--existent, to 33% by stipulating a women's quota for local governance institutions (panchayati raj institutions) is such an exciting unique mass -- scale experiment that of course, this drew upon itself the interest of researchers, feminists, politicians, the media or even the public eye in general. Many studies have been done looking at the successes and failures of the women's reservations as prescribed by the 73rd and 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution. Even the most sceptical studies generally concede that not all women-politicians are merely puppets in a male party-men initiated play and not able to advocate their or rather their electorate's interest. Yet, the baseline generally is that despite a few „success-stories" of committed women struggling for women's interests in the political field ranging from local first-timer to very experienced, eloquent full-time politician, women still have not captured the political arena and that the reservations have failed to come up to the high and noble expectations of equality and democracy. The subsequent analysis of the "mal- implementation" of women's reservation in local governance often concentrates on the failures, democratic loop-holes and participation-traps of the re-invented panchayat system. Most of these critical studies are not questioning the desirability of the reservations as such, but seek by means of "evaluations" to high-light the system's short-comings. Moreover, in almost everybody's vocabulary, from academics to local NGOs and bureaucrats one will encounter the term "proxy" for all those women, who according to the evaluations and studies done, do not measure up to what is understood as a "real acting panchayat member" or "participating properly". In relation with proxy terminology usually the importance of "male kinship links" in getting elected as well as going about the political work is stressed to an extent which makes women appear to be passive, gullible, malleable and naïve puppets in the hands of their politically ambitious husbands or male relatives.


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