Let’s start with some simple figures. In 1996, women formed 10.23 per cent of the MLAs in the Kerala assembly. In 2016, women form only 6.06 per cent of all the MLAs in the Kerala assembly. This is in spite of the fact that the number of women standing for elections has increased over the past five years, with 105 contesting in 2016 as opposed to 83 in 2011.
So what has happened in Kerala to bring down women’s representation in the assembly by nearly half over 20 years, when the number of women candidates has actually gone up? Why are these women not getting votes? Are they really not worthy?
This year’s elections saw 75 per cent of Kerala’s women and 76 per cent of the state’s men cast their votes. But only eight women were elected in a 140 member house.
The women who lost include:
- CK Janu, a popular tribal leader, who contested as an independent candidate with support from the National Democratic Alliance at the Sulthan Bathery constituency in Wayanad,which has the highest percentage of tribals in Kerala. She finished third among eight candidates with 16 per cent of the vote.
- PK Jayalakshmi, Minister for Welfare of Scheduled Tribes in the previous government, the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate from Mananthavady in Wayanad district. She got 42 per cent of the vote.
(as reported by youthkiawaaz.com)
Kerala has the most literate female population in the country – 92 per cent of all women can read and write. But many women voters do not back women candidates because they believe that women MLAs would be torn between work and family. No matter how educated or capable women may be, it still appears that everyone believes that for women, family will always come first.
In 2014, it was the women of Kerala who led the nilpu samaram (standing protest) that asked the government to implement the right of tribals to land and allow the local communities to use forests. Again, it was the women of the Pembilai Orumai (women’s collective movement) in 2015 who demanded higher wages for tea plantation workers in Munnar. Women have proved their worth at every step and yet, winning elections seems like a battle that cannot be won.
Feature image credit: keyword-suggestions.com