The election of 22 percent of women in the Council of Representatives, the highest decision-making body of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, whose constitution is based on the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him), indicates Islam encourages women to take an active part in decision-making and governance.
Syed Khalique Ahmed
NEW DELHI—There was a lot of noise in the media when some Taliban officials from Afghanistan attended a four-day online (March 14-17) course conducted by the prestigious Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIM-K). One of the reasons for the Taliban receiving international condemnation is their restrictions on women’s education.
Contrast this with Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH), a premier religio-cultural organisation of Indian Muslims. JIH elected as many as 36 women in its 162-member Council of Representatives (CoR) just a few days before the Taliban attended the management course.
The CoR is the highest decision-making body of JIH. It elects Ameer-e-Jamaat, or the organisation’s president, and takes all major policy decisions. It is like the US electoral college, where members elect the president and vice president.
ALSO READ: What has Jamaat-e-Islami Hind achieved after 75 years of resolute struggle?
CoR members were elected by about 14,000 JIH members or rukn, through nationwide direct online polling in two phases. The newly formed CoR has a term of four years (April 2023 to April 2027), called Meeqat.
READ ALSO: [email protected]: Work for the Nation’s Welfare; Convey the Message of Islam and Worship of Only One God to Fellow Countrymen
READ ALSO: 80% of Terrorism Came From Non-Religious Movements In The Last 70 Years: JIH Chief
An essential aspect of the JIH elections is that campaigning and lobbying are prohibited. Rukns elect candidates based on their merit about their talent, work and past performance. Several women CoR members are professionals, technocrats, educationists like school and college principals, doctors, engineers, and many holding postgraduate degrees.
Though this is not the first time women have entered CoR. Women were always elected to this topmost decision-making body. But their strength this time is the highest ever in the new CoR that would begin functioning from April end when the term of the existing body ends. Two of the JIH secretaries are currently women. JIH also has a separate women’s wing and a girls’ organisation working on campuses nationwide.
The election of women in JIH’s highest decision-making body is quite significant because there is a lot of misunderstanding about the position of women in Muslim society in India. As the JIH Constitution is based on the Quran and Sunnah of the Prophet, women’s election to CoR proves that Islam encourages women to participate actively in policy-making, decision-making and governance. JIH is the only Muslim organisation, besides the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), that has given space to women in a body that controls and manages the organisation. This remarkable achievement has been possible because of adopting a proper Islamic system in the formation and running of the organisation.
Women’s representation in the newly elected CoR is over 22 percent, much more than the percentage of women’s representation in the two houses of Parliament – Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha – as also the state assemblies.
13% women MPs in Parliament, below 10% MLAs in state assemblies
According to available data, out of 766 MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, only 102 (78 in Lok Sabha and 24 in Rajya Sabha) are women, indicating women’s presence in the two national legislative bodies is merely 13 percent.
The representation of women in state assemblies is worse than in Parliament. It is more than 10 per cent in a few state assemblies only like West Bengal. However, in most states, it is below 10 per cent. This isn’t very pleasant in a country that had a woman prime minister – Indira Gandhi – and also takes pride in having two women presidents – Pratibha Patil (2007-2012) and current president Droupadi Murmu.
No women MLA in Mizoram assembly
It is really disheartening that the 40-member Mizoram assembly elected in November 2022 has no woman legislator, although female voters in Mizoram outnumber male voters. About 87 percent of Mizoram’s population belongs to the Presbyterian denomination of Christianity. It is astonishing that Mizo National Front, which won the elections by bagging 26 seats, had not fielded even a single female candidate in assembly elections. The reason for women not being fielded by major political parties is said to be the highly patriarchal character of Mizo society. Many women fielded by smaller parties failed to win the elections.
Nagaland, another Northeastern state, elected two women MLAs in a House of 60 for the first time in its history in the latest assembly polls in the state. This means women’s representation is merely three percent in the Nagaland state assembly.
The situation is not encouraging in the rest of the states. For example, the number of women MLAs in Assam under BJP rule is six out of a House of 126 (4 percent), 40 out of 294 (13 percent) in West Bengal, 26 out of 243(10.7 percent) in Bihar, 10 out of 81 (12.34 percent) in Jharkhand, 11 out of 140 (7.8 percent) in Kerala that has strong Leftist roots, six out of 70 (8.5 percent) in Delhi, 17 out of 230 (7.3 percent) in Madhya Pradesh, three out of 60 (5 percent in Meghalaya) and 47 out of 403 (11.7 percent) in Uttar Pradesh, 12 out of 234 (five percent) in Tamil Nadu, 34 out of 294 (11.56 percent) in Andhra Pradesh, six out of 119 (five percent) in Telangana, three out of 40 (7.5 percent) in Goa, 15 out of 147(10.20 percent) in Odisha, nine out of ninety(10 percent) in Haryana, 13 out of 117 (11 percent) in Punjab, 23 out of 200 (11.5 percent) in Rajasthan, 15 out of 182 (8.2 percent) in Gujarat, 24 out of 288 (8.33 percent) in Maharashtra, and 11 out of 224 (4.9 percent) in Karnataka.
India ranks 148th in terms of women representation in legislative bodies
The gross under-representation of women in legislative bodies happens despite the fact that females form almost 50 per cent of total electorates in the country. According to data collected by Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) that gives monthly ranking of women in national parliaments all over the globe, women’s representation in Indian legislative bodies has worsened in the last few decades and India’s ranking has fallen to 148th position in 2021 from 95th in 1998 and 144th in 2008. According to IPU data, neighbouring countries – China (86), Nepal (45), Pakistan(116), Bangladesh (11) Afghanistan(71), Indonesia(110), Malaysia (146) – fare better than India.
Poor representation of women in legislative bodies indicate the world’s largest democracy has much more to do about improving the conditions of its women with respect to their representation in legislative bodies. Survey of the candidates fielded by political parties show that the parties do not field many women. The reason given by the parties is that they go by the winnability of the candidates, and not their gender. According to Election Commission of India (ECI) data, the percentage of female candidates was 3 percent in Lok Sabha elections between 1952-1977, 4 precent between 1977-2002 and only 7 percent in all Parliamentary elections between 2002-2019. In state assembly elections, the percentage of women candidates was 2 in 1952-1977, 4 percent in 1977-2002 and 8 percent in 2002-2019. This explains the reason about under-representation of women in Parliament and state assemblies. When the number of women contestants in elections is not enough, one cannot expect their fair representation in legislative bodies.
No fair representation of women in political parties
CPI(M) has only two women members in its existing politburo – Subhasini Ali and Brinda Karat – out of a total of 17 members which comes to 11.7 per cent. In CPI(M) Central Committee, there are only 15 women members out of a total of 84. This means women’s representation in the Central Committee of CPI(M) is only 17.85 per cent.
Out of a total of 324 members in BJP’s national executive committee, women representatives are only 42 or 13 per cent only. Such a small percentage of women in the executive committee of a party that has given the slogan of “beti bachao, beti padhao” is very disappointing.
The situation is not rosy even in All India Congress Committee (AICC), the oldest political party in the country. Out of 49 AICC executive committee members, women are only six or 12 per cent.