Most women empowerment talks start with women's reservation bill and end with demand for greater leadership roles. But when it comes to taking part in the most basic process of democracy – casting their ballots – Indian women remain a reluctant lot.
According to the Election Commission of India, only 55.82 per cent of women voters in India exercised their franchise in 2009 Lok Sabha polls as against 60.3% men. The overall polling percentage was 58.13%.
However, state-wise statistics show that women voters in Maharashtra were amongst the least active ones. Only 44% of the registered women voters turned out at the polling booths. The state's overall poll percentage (50.67%) was also amongst the lowest in the country.
Several women in the city cited family responsibilities as the main reason for not visiting the polling booth, while many claimed pregnancy and small children made it difficult for them to walk up to polling booths.
"I couldn't vote because I had a lot of household work those days. However, my husband and sister-in-law did go for voting," said Sonali Mahale, homemaker, who lives in a joint family.
Sunrendra Jondhale, professor of politics at Mumbai of University, attributed the phenomenon to political apathy and patriarchal structure of the society. "Many women still don't take interest in the politics. The patriarchal system of our society also hampers their chances to participate in the voting process."
The stories of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan were similar where women's turnout was below 45%, which brought the overall poll percentage down to less than 50%.
Women in the states of Lakshadweep, Tripura and Nagaland were the most active participants with 81-90% of them coming out to cast their votes. Their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Tamil Nadu, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu, Puducherry also fared better. The poll percentage of women in these states was between 71%-80%.
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Haryana, Meghalaya, Odisha, Andman & Nicobar and Chandigarh saw 61-70% women participating in the electoral process. The higher turnout of the women voters led to the higher overall poll percentage also in these states.
|State||Women voter turnout %||Overall polling %|
(Election commission of India; 2009 Lok Sabha Statistics)