New Delhi, Apr 30 UNI | 3 months ago

Aspirations of women desirous of being in politics are thwarted by various forms of violence inflicted on them not just in India but in the whole of South Asia, new research has found.

In India, now in the midst of elections, 45 per cent of women candidates face more physical violence and threats as compared to only 21 per cent and 16 per cent in Pakistan and Nepal respectively, says the study on 'Violence against Women in Politics' by UN Women and Centre for Social Research (CSR) released here today.

Even as women struggle to make a place for themselves in politics, repeated violence ranging from sexual, physical and psychological compels them to give up on their ambitions. More than actual physical violence, character assassination was a more rampant form of abuse to break the will of women.

'Almost 90 per cent of women in these countries feel that violence breaks their resolve to join politics,' said Dr Rebecca R Tavares, Representative of UN women.

The study conducted in India, Nepal and Pakistan, finds that while the percentage of female voters and women candidates fielded by political parties had increased in all three countries, the percentage of female representatives in national bodies has decreased. The study also finds that more than 60 per cent of women do not participate in politics due to violence.

Except for a few chosen politicians, most of the elected female representatives have a limited or marginal role in important decisions within their political party, Dr Ranjana Kumari, CSR Director said at a news conference.

While physical violence, verbal abuse and threat of violence are higher in India, character assassination is seen as a greater threat in Pakistan and Nepal. Most women, as the recent election, also shows, have to face a lot of character assassination and abuse too. When men fail to find fault in women professionally they resort to character vilification, candidates admitted.

Threats, kidnapping and killing were some other forms of violence quoted by women candidates, said the study.

Stating that women are denied their rights to participate in politics at every stage, the study found that women were deprived of a multitude of rights that could increase their participation in politics. These range from the right to vote, contest elections, access to resources and education.

Although making for colourful photo ops as they stand in queue outside booths, the study found that the denial of the right to vote was commonly experienced by women voters while women candidates were denied their right to join a political party or to contest elections.

It was found that women in politics, especially those who are first generation politicians, face discrimination at all levels. These included not being allowed to make decisions and being side-lined within political parties as they are perceived to be less able to win political seats. They also experience political isolation for not following party lines drawn by male party members and leaders.

Patriarchal thinking and attitudes are mainly responsible for keeping women away from politics. Women who belong to political families are seen as representatives of the elite and controlled by powerful males, which does not serve the purpose of women empowerment.

Recommending political reservations for women, the study said violence against women is institutionalised through family structures, wider social and economic frameworks and cultural and religious traditions and is widely accepted method for controlling women. Moreover, it is largely overlooked by law enforcement agencies and is ignored by those in power, according to Dr Ranjana Kumari.

(Posted on 01-05-2014)