Data indicates that like in the case of Lok Sabha, the representation of women in state legislative assemblies remains low. It is not even 20% in any of the states with the share below the Lok Sabha average in many states. While the share of women contestants is relatively higher in some states, share of women winning from these states is still low.
During the special session of the Parliament held in September 2023, both Houses almost unanimously approved the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023. This bill, also known as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam or the Women’s Reservation Bill, seeks to allocate 33% or one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies for women. This provision also extends to reserved seats for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The bill will come into effect following the President’s assent after the release of the 2021 Census data and subsequent delimitation, with the reservation initially lasting for 15 years, extendable by a parliamentary law.
In the previous story, we looked at women’s representation in the Lok Sabha. Despite progress, women’s representation in the Lok Sabha remains modest, increasing from 5.5% in 1957 to 14.4% in 2019, falling short of the proposed 33% representation for women in the Bill. We also observed that the percentage of women elected to the Lok Sabha was higher than the national average for women elected to state assemblies. While women’s parliamentary representation is vital for gender equality, social justice, and addressing various societal issues, women don’t makeup even one-fifth of the MLAs in any of the states/UTs. In this story, we look at the data about women’s representation in state assemblies across India. Data for this story is based on various Statistical Reports of the Election Commission of India collated by Dataful.
Women constituted only 3% of the candidates in Nagaland’s Assembly elections in 2018
The share of female candidates out of the total candidates that contested elections in the latest year of Legislative Assembly elections as of 2022 is represented in the map below. The year in which the latest elections to each state’s legislative assembly took place is given in the following table.
|2022||Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh|
|2021||Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Puducherry|
|2019||Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Odisha, Sikkim|
|2018||Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tripura, Jammu and Kashmir|
The share of women candidates out of the total candidates that contested the election ranges from less than 3% in Nagaland to more than 12% in Uttar Pradesh. Only 9 states/UTs including Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Puducherry, Kerala, Sikkim, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Tamil Nadu reported more than 10% women among all the candidates. The participation was less than 7% in the northeastern states of Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, and Nagaland, as well as in Himachal Pradesh. In Punjab, Maharashtra, and Telangana, the share is between 7 to 8%. It should be noted that elections have been held in Telangana only once so far, in 2018.
Historically, the trends in the last six legislative assembly elections in some of the major states reveal that the share of women candidates has improved over the years in almost all the states, just like in the case of the Lok Sabha elections. However, the rate of increase varies across states. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, the share of women candidates grew steadily from 4.3% to 12.6% between 1996 and 2022 while in Delhi, it increased by only 4.8% between 1998 and 2020. In Maharashtra, where the share was only 5.2% in 1995, women constituted only 7.4% of the candidates in the 2019 elections.
While Bihar recorded an overall growth from 3.1% in 1995 to 9.9% in 2020, the states of Punjab and Assam saw a decline in their share in the last 2-3 elections. In Punjab, women candidates constituted only 7.5% in 1997 which dropped even further to 5.3% in 2007. In 2017 and 2022, the state reported 7.1%, lower than the representation in 1997 & 2002. Meanwhile, in Assam, the share of women candidates grew from 3.7% in 1996 to 8.7% in 2011. However, in the following elections, the share dropped marginally to 8.6% in 2016 and 8% in 2021.
Nagaland had no women elected in the elections as of 2022
Since the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of each state/UT is different, we look at the share of seats that women won in the latest assembly elections of the total seats in the Legislative Assembly for better comparison.
No state has reported women winners in at least 15% of the seats. As per the results of the last legislative assembly elections in Mizoram and Nagaland, women did not win a single seat. In fact, as of 2022, no woman had won any seat in the state assembly elections of Nagaland in the six decades since the state’s formation in 1963.
Assam, Karnataka, Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh saw women in only less than 5% of the seats while the representation in Telangana, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya was slightly above 5%. Despite reporting a comparatively larger large share of women candidates in elections, the number of women winners was only 7.86% in Kerala and 5.13% in Tamil Nadu.
Even though Uttar Pradesh saw the highest share of women contestants, Chhattisgarh recorded the highest share of women MLAs with 14.44%, close to the representation in the latest Lok Sabha. West Bengal’s assembly led by a woman Chief minister has 13.7% of the seats occupied by women. Surprisingly, the states of Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Bihar, are among those which have a higher representation of women in the Assembly. These are states where the performance in social indicators like health and education has been relatively poorer, as per national surveys.
Reserving seats for women is an important step forward, but implementation matters
Data reveals that the representation of women in state assemblies in India varies from state to state. Nonetheless, the representation of women is poor across the board. Data also indicates that despite a relatively larger share of women contesting in the state assembly elections in some states, the share of seats won by women is very low in many of these states. While this in an indication that there is improved awareness and interest among women to participate in elections, mere participation in elections need not translate to better representation of women in decision-making. Since women win fewer seats, it may mean that either the competition is more among the women candidates, or the society continues to favour men in elections. To ensure women are represented, the Women’s Reservation Bill is an important step forward. However, it remains to be seen how issues like proxy women participation will shape up in the future.