Women still ‘missing’ in India’s national election

Closing the gender gap . . .

The results of India’s national election won’t be announced until tomorrow, but exit polls are signalling some notable trends. If the polls are accurate, women’s voting participation rate is the highest it’s ever been, at 68 per cent. This would mean Indian women are catching up to their male counterparts – 68.3 per-cent of whom voted this time around. But another data point tells a different story: the names of as many as 65 million eligible women voters were missing from the voter rolls.

The (pink) elephant in the room . . .

India’s Election Commission was proactive in creating conditions to encourage women to vote. It even set up pink voting booths staffed by female election workers and provided childcare and other amenities. Reports from earlier election phases suggest these booths had their intended effect, including in New Delhi, a site of recent violent incidents against women. Nevertheless, experts say the disenfranchisement of women persists in some parts of the country. Explanations range from the relatively innocent (challenges in updating voter rolls) to the nefarious (husbands and fathers actively discouraging women from registering to vote).

Time for a Canada-India sisterhood?

Canada’s feminist international assistance policy prioritizes gender equality in political participation, although its focus has been more on empowering women politicians than on female enfranchisement. The ‘missing’ women voters notwithstanding, trends in India are encouraging, and could well lead to opening a window for Canada-India collaboration in supporting equal political participation elsewhere in the world.