As more women go out to vote in India while their male counterparts stay home, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is shifting attention and scheming a raft of female-focused policies before the 2019 national election.
Following the popular roll out of cooking gas for rural families that frees girls from smoky woodfires, Modi is pushing to prohibit so-called instant divorce in Muslim communities. He’s also keen to reserve seats for women in parliament and backroom consultations have begun, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
” Women emerging as a vote bloc would be a crucial factor in deciding the election” though there is no sign that they vote for a party that picks their issues, said Sanjay Kumar, director of the New Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. Yet, “there is a trend to mobilize them. There is greater thrust on women’s issues by Modi’s government .”
Women outnumbered men at polling booths in half of India’s states in 2014, but a Pew survey conducted this year presented they were also more critical of Modi’s policies, including his handling of rising prices, pollution, and communal tensions. His choice of a Hindu monk to lead one of the worst states for women in India has also raised some eyebrows.
” Does his acolyte, Swami Adityanath, actually care about the status of women? ” said Sumit Ganguly, prof at the Tagore Chair in Indian Cultures and Civilizations at Indiana University, Bloomington, referring to the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh who has voiced — among other views — that women need protection , not independence. “Rank paternalism in much of” the ruling party’s leadership is constraining Modi’s ability to consequence significant change, Ganguly said.
Goddess of Power
In a country that venerates goddesses and boasts several top women bankers, Modi rarely fails to evoke females when speaking at public platforms. At a recent global satisfy attended by Ivanka Trump, daughter and consultant of U.S. President Donald Trump, he said females are the incarnation of Shakti — the goddess of power — and “vital to our development.”
However, India’s gender gap ranking has fallen 21 places from last year mainly due to poorer political empowerment, healthy life expectancy, and basic literacy for the bulk of women, according to a 2017 reportfrom the World Economic Forum. The rate of crime against girls is little changed since Modi came to power in 2014, and the share of women in India’s workforce is declining from what was already one of the lowest among emerging economies.
“In the arena of women’s workforce participation India has moved backward instead of forward in recent years ,” said Alyssa Ayres, senior fellow for India, Pakistan and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.” This is not just an issue of equality, which of course it is, but one that can have a major impact on the country’s prosperity.”
India’s gross domestic product in 2025 “wouldve been” 60 percent higher if women attain equal status at work than if it remains at current levels, according to McKinsey& Co.
Bridging the Gap
Modi is trying the bridge the gap. His government has 😛 TAGEND Provided safer cooking ga to poor households as the government tries to reduce premature deaths from household air pollution Increased maternity leave and mandated childcare facilities for working moms Proposed minimum wages and social security benefits for India’s 3. 9 million domestic workers, of which 67 percent are girls Started campaigns to encourage education for girls