Rape: The Red Herring

That India is a horribly sexist society with atrocious gender disparity in every possible social indicator is something most people intuitively understand. Simple and indisputable facts of this country are: female children are less likely to be born, more likely to be killed at birth, more likely to die under five years of age, more likely to remain illiterate, more likely to get married when underage, more likely to become pregnant when they ought to be in school[1], less likely to engage in productive economic activity outside the house, more likely to be discriminated in terms of wages even if engaged in said economic activity and far less likely to own property.

Let’s then look at how this plays out in terms of political participation[2].

State % of women MPs (Lok Sabha 2009) % Dynastic MPs (2009, Lok Sabha)
Andhra Pradesh 11.9 38
Assam 14.3 14
Bihar 10 23
Chhatisgarh 18.2 17
Gujarat 15.4 19
Haryana 20 70
Himachal Pradesh 0 25
India 10.9 29
J & K 0 33
Jharkhand 0 0
Karnataka 3.6 25
Kerala 0 19
Madhya Pradesh 20.7 24
Maharastra 6.3 29
Noth East NA 15
Orissa 0 38
Punjab 30.8 77
Rajasthan 12 20
Tamil Nadu 5.1 23
Uttar Pradesh 15 39
Uttarakhand 0 20
West Bengal 16.7 19

The first statistic that jumps out at anyone looking at the table is — why are Punjab and Haryana even holding elections and pretending to be democratic societies. The next subtle statistic is the high degree of correlation between female representation and dynastic hegemony. The correlation coefficient between these two is higher than that between lack of schools in villages in a given state and its illiteracy! The only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at therefore is that the representation of women in Parliament will come down even more dramatically if dynastic politics were to end. Dynastic politics is a problem with a solution that looks worse than the status-quo for women.There are four clusters of states that seem distinct from each other,

  • Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have more dynastic MPs than the nation’s average and also more women MPs. These are states with obscenely high dynastic MPs that also make their dynastic daughters MPs.
  • Orissa and Jammu & Kashmir are weird even in their obnoxiousness in that they have higher than average dynastic representation of MPs but not a single woman in the Lok Sabha from either state.
  • The states that do well in terms of having a lower than average dynastic representation but higher than average female representation are a surprising bunch: Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, West Bengal and Rajasthan. These states do not score well on other related indicators like female literacy, underaged marriage of girls, female labor force participation etc. Somehow, their political system seems to produce better results, regardless.
  • The final set of states have lower than average dynastic component but extremely poor female representation: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka form the major states of this cluster. For instance, Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, two of the top three states in terms of development indicators, have no female representation. Tamil Nadu has just one woman MP: Helen Davidson from Kanyakumari who thankfully isn’t a dynast and was elected as a DMK candidate. As does Karnataka in Divya Spandana who won the Mandya by-election recently. Two women represent three of the most advanced states in the country and Karnataka put together.

[1] — That was an unfair comparison given men don’t get pregnant. But then.

[2] — Data was manually typed in from Sen and Dreze’s latest book, India: An Uncertain Glory