Women fail to get elected in J&K panchayat polls

Out of 4,113 sarpanch posts in the 22 districts of the state, only 28 women managed to win the elections a dismal success rate of 0.68 percent.

Srinagar: The fairer sex in Jammu and Kashmir has once again failed to break into male-dominated politics of the state as less than one percent of the over 4,000 sarpanchs elected during the panchayat polls are women.

Out of 4,113 sarpanch posts in the 22 districts of the state, only 28 women managed to win the elections a dismal success rate of 0.68 percent.

According to the data compiled by the Chief Electoral Office of the state, there is no woman sarpanch in 11 of the 22 districts as male candidates have won the elections for all the posts in these districts.

Although there is no scientific evidence, the data also corroborates to some extent the preference for males over females in Kashmir Valley as shown in the Census 2011.

Out of the 10 districts in the Valley, eight districts do not have a single woman sarpanch. Baramulla in north Kashmir and Shopian in south Kashmir have been the saving grace but the two districts have elected just three women as sarpanchs
out of 453 posts.

Surprisingly, Leh and Kargil, the two districts of the state where women are considered to be far more assertive than their counterparts in other districts, have also failed to elect a single woman as sarpanch.

The only district in Jammu division, not to elect any woman as sarpanch is Kishtwar. The coincidence cannot be lost as the newly-carved out district shares strong cultural relations with Kashmir Valley.

The remaining nine districts of Jammu region have representation of women as sarpanchs but again the percentage of winners is nothing to write home about.

Udhampur and Poonch have elected five women each followed by Poonch and Kathua at four.

Chief Electoral Officer BR Sharma said fewer women came forward to stand as candidates during the panchayat elections as there were no reservations for them for sarpanch posts.

"Also, the elections were held after such a long time. In the coming days, we expect to see more and more women come forward," Sharma said.

However, constitutional experts feel that non-application of the 73rd Amendment in Jammu and Kashmir was the main reason for such a small number of women standing in the elections.

They maintained that in the absence of reservations for women for Sarpanch posts, it will always be difficult for them to break into the male bastion.

Opposition Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti, who is one of the three elected MLAs in the 87-member state assembly, said the panchayat polls was a new experience for women from rural areas.

"I think by the next elections we will see more participation and definitely more woman as sarpanchs," Mehbooba said.

She said her party supported the 73rd Amendment in order to give more reservation to the women at Sarpanch level also.

Panchayat polls in the state were billed as the biggest step towards women empowerment and it was only due to the 33 percent reservation for panch posts that a substantial number of women will be involved in decision-making at the grass roots level.

Out of 28248 panchs elected across the state, 9424 belong to the fairer sex.


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