Of the 31 members of the Parliamentary Committee to make recommendations on the minimum age for marriage of women, only one is a woman MP. Questions are being raised whether the importance of representation of women in the parliamentary system has also been lost. The Central Government had brought the Child Marriage Prohibition (Amendment) Act 2021 in the winter session of Parliament in December. Its main objective was to raise the minimum legal age for marriage for women from 18 to 21. After seeing a lot of opposition to the Act, the government sent it to the Rajya Sabha’s Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth, and Sports. There are 10 Rajya Sabha MPs and 21 Lok Sabha MPs from different parties in the committee.
But the surprising thing is that there is only one woman MP in this list of 31 members – Sushmita Dev, a member of the Rajya Sabha from Trinamool Congress. The chairman of the committee is Vinay Sahasrabuddhe of BJP. Priyanka Chaturvedi, a member of the Sabha from Shiv Sena, has to Rajya Sabha Speaker and the country’s Vice President Venkaiah Naidu in this regard and requested him to include more women in the committee. Naidu has yet to comment on the matter. The lone woman member of the committee, Sushmita Dev, has also objected to the matter and said that more women MPs could have been included in it. This issue has once again underlined the crisis of representation of women in the Indian parliamentary system.
According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India ranks 148th in the world in terms of the representation of women in national parliaments. China is ranked 46th, Bangladesh 111th, and Pakistan 116th. There are 788 members in both the houses of the Indian Parliament, out of which only 103 are women, that is, only 13 percent. Of the 245 members of the Rajya Sabha, only 25 are women, that is, about 10 percent. Of the 543 members in the Lok Sabha, only 78 are women, that is, 14 percent. Only 14 percent of the ministers in the central government are women.
In the Legislative Assemblies, the situation is even worse. According to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms, only nine percent of the 4,120 MLAs in the country are women. Parties also give less opportunity to women to contest elections. According to the Election Commission data, 93 percent of the candidates who contested in the Lok Sabha elections from 2002 to 2019 were male. In the same period, this figure was 92 percent in the Legislative Assembly elections.