Debating India

INDIA

Women lose out in voting

Radha SHARMA & Tina PAREKH

Wednesday 21 April 2004, by PAREKH*Tina, SHARMA*Radha

AHMEDABAD: Even as politicians and analysts ponder over the low turnout in Gujarat, another fact may cause them greater concern. Ten per cent fewer women came out to vote than men.

While the overall turnout was 45.18 per cent, the turnout of men - at 49.99 per cent - was more encouraging than the 40.07 per cent of the women who voted. Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has made woman empowerment one of the main issues of development, seemed to have had little influence on the women of his hometown. The difference between male and female voters in the Visnagar segment of Mehsana constituency was almost 13 per cent.

Women and child welfare minister Anandiben Patel, who camped in Patan throughout the campaign, had to contend with a 10 per cent shortfall in women voters.

"The sex ratio shows there are fewer women, so it is only logical that the number of women who came out to vote is less," explained Patel, without realising that percentages do not take the difference in population into account. She said, "Men form groups and come to the polling booths but women find it difficult to leave the field and trudge miles to cast their votes."

The lowest turnout of women voters was witnessed in Banaskantha, where almost 16 per cent fewer women came out. In tribal areas like Mandvi, Valsad, Chota Udepur and Dahod, the difference was between 7 per cent and 9 per cent. The urban Ahmedabad and Vadodara seats fared no better as 12 per cent and 11 per cent fewer women came out to exercise their franchise.

Jyoti Ghade of the NGO, Chetna, said that the low turnout among women was expected since awareness about gender equity in Gujarat is abysmal. "The government keeps harping on bringing out a new gender policy when most of the gender equity and empowerment programmes in rural areas have been withdrawn," she said.

"Low political awareness and general apathy are the main reasons for lower woman voter turnout. Moreover, voting is expensive as women are required to travel distances to locate the polling booth," said Ila Pathak of Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Wednesday, april 21, 2004.

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