India ranks low in percentage of women in Lower House

New York, March 4 (PTI): Despite efforts to empower women, India ranks very low at 108th position among 189 countries so far as the percentage of women lawmakers in its lower house of Parliament is concerned.

Interestingly, Pakistan is much higher at 48th position and Nepal shares the 63rd spot with Italy. But Sri Lanka, placed at 124th and Bhutan (131st) follow India, according to statistics released by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

China occupies 49th position and Bangladesh, which has 45 of 345 parliamentary seats reserved for women, is at the 72nd spot.

The ranking is based on the percentage of seats in the Lower House or a single House, but does not take into consideration the Upper House. Some of the countries do better because they have seats reserved for women.

The top five spots are occupied by Rwanda, Sweden, Costa Rica, Finland and Norway. Rwanda’s lower house has 48.8 per cent women and Sweden 47.3 per cent. At the bottom of table are Qatar, Saudi Arabia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu which have no women lawmaker.

The United States holds the 67th position and Britain shares the 52nd spot with Dominican Republic. Worldwide, the statistics show almost 17 per cent of parliamentarians are now women – an all time high. In 1995, only 11.3 per cent of all parliamentary seats were held by women.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) released the statistics on women in parliament following elections in 51 countries (61 chambers of parliament) in 2006.

Increases in the number of women were registered in more than 60 per cent of the chambers that were renewed, with women winning 16.7 per cent of all parliamentary seats up for grabs in 2006. Of the women who won seats, 1,459 were directly elected, 63 were indirectly elected, and 35 were appointed.

The IPU’s statistics also reveal that electoral gender quotas were used in 23 countries to bolster women’s participation. In those countries with gender quotas, women took 21.7 per cent of seats as opposed to 11.8 per cent in countries with no quotas.

In January 2007, there were more women presiding officers of parliament than ever before: 35 out of a total 262 worldwide, according to IPU statistics.

Women speakers were elected for the first time in Gambia, Israel, Swaziland, Turkmenistan and the United States of America.

Three Gulf Cooperation Council States recorded significant political changes, IPU notes, adding that in the United Arab Emirates, both women and men stood for re-election and voted for the first time in the country’s history.

Nine women entered parliament, taking 22.5 per cent of the seats. Women stood for elections for the first time in Kuwait as well, but none won.

In Bahrain, one woman was elected to the Lower House for the first time in that country.

Inter Parliamentary Union, Latest Data here
The Hindu , March 4, 2007

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