I have spent the last 10 weeks in India researching women’s political participation in Goa. The female politicians are very few in the state (only 2 % of the members of the legislative assembly are women). Over and over again I’ve asked female politicians I’ve met: what can be done to solve this problem? What could make you feel encouraged running for an election to the state legislature? To get into the sphere where you rightfully should have an equal share with your male counterparts. Almost everyone has mentioned the same thing: Quotas. We need quotas.
Quotas are not cheating. Quotas are a step to make this world fairer. Here are three reasons why:
1. THERE’S ALREADY RESERVATION FOR MEN
Common to all 192 countries in the world today is the fact that people on the highest positions in society are men. That is not because they are more competent. That is because we today have a structure in society; let’s call it an invisible reservation bill, which favors men. Some people like to call it “natural”, but believe me, there is nothing in the set of genes in the male body that make them better suited for ruling positions. By implementing a reservation for women this unnatural pattern of power could be broken.
2. MORE COMPETENCE & A BROADENED AGENDA
Quotas are not used to exclude competent men; they are for used to bring out the competent women. Many female politicians I talked to in India expressed a conviction that their experience would change today’s prioritizes in politics.
In Karnataka, a neighboring state to Goa, the collections of local taxes have risen more than seven times in the Belandur gram panchayat since they implemented the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendment which ensures a 30 % reservation for women on the local level (the panchayati raj). Village surveys carried out in the state of West Bengal and Rajasthan also show that women prioritize projects that meet community needs, such as water and roads, to a larger extent in comparison to men.
3. MORE JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY
Political decisions affect everyone in a society but not in the same way. One of the main objectives for a reservation is that it would increase women’s visibility in all decisions. This would also lead to a strengthening of the democratic setup. India is often referred to as the biggest democracy in the world but with only 11 % women in the Indian parliament it is obvious that it has some flaws. Democracy does not guarantee everyone to be represented but fundamental to democracy are the principles of equal access to power and that all members should enjoy universally recognized freedoms and liberties.
It takes time to change structures, but quotas are a push in the right direction.