Academic journal article Journal of Social Welfare and Management

Social Inclusion and Changing Representation of Rural Women in Panchayati Raj of Tamil Nadu

Academic journal article Journal of Social Welfare and Management

Social Inclusion and Changing Representation of Rural Women in Panchayati Raj of Tamil Nadu

Article excerpt


Gender inequality and gender discrimination are so profoundly deep rooted in Indian social structure that women in this country are inevitably succumbed to denial of access to opportunities and participation in the public sphere. The ideology of social division of labour forces women to be confined to the private sphere of life and restricts women's existence within domestic roles as wives and mothers. The male hegemony prevails in the decision-making processes both in private as well as public domains.

Conversely, the idea of democracy is to ensure 'a government of the whole body by the whole people, equally represented.[1]A focal point of the current discourse on democracy is the concept of political representation. The "politics of ideas" have come to be "challenged by the alternative politics of presence".[2] Accordingly, there is a growing demand for increasing presence of women in political decision-making with the feminist cry 'political is personal'. It is argued that women need to be 'empowered' in the realm of political decision making so as to facilitate their 'real' empowerment.

A change in power structure and gender relation is central to the strategy of transformative politics. Even the country Report proposed by the Government of India for the Beijing Conference admits that "Women's empowerment' and participation is a political question linked to changes in power relations. [3] Therefore, the Central and State Governments of India have endeavoured to ameliorate the socio, economic and political conditions of women through various legislations, policies and programmes. One such institution to bring about comprehensive rural development with a specific focus on women representation and empowerment is the Panchayati Raj. In this scenario, this paper endeavours to portray a gender analysis of representation at three tiers of Panchayati Raj in 29 districts of Tamil Nadu with a view to explicate the extent and proportion of women representation in Panchayati Raj in Tamil Nadu.

Women representation in Panchayati Raj in India

In India, women constitute 50 per cent of the rural population. This gives them the legitimacy to play an important role at the grassroots level. Indeed, the equality guaranteed by the Constitution of India, demands active political participation by women which is integral to the whole issue of the progress of women.

In this respect, the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitutions effected in 1992 brought about a number of fundamental changes in the Panchayati Raj system. These legal provisions, amongst the other things, have stipulated one third reservations of seats for women. Such promulgations have certainly have implication in the Indian context where women were subjected to discrimination and injustice over centuries.

Article 2nd and 3rd of the Constitution relates to reservation and rotation of seats for women in rural bodies. The 73rd Amendment Act mainly aims at decentralizing the power and also removing the gender imbalances and bias in the institutions of local self government. He justifies the rationale to provide reservations for following reasons, what is the actual intention of our policy makers. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment actually aims for shared perception of justice, deprivation and oppression. Shared experience of marginalization vis-a-vis power structure, collective empowerment through representation and democratic process will give them voice, feeling of solidarity and democratic polities. Affirmative action to build a critical mass of local leadership of such group that engendered active participants in the strategic decisionmaking.^]

The main position of 73rd Constitutional Amendment involves the participation of women as voter, women as members of political parties, women as candidates, women elected members of PRI's taking part in decision making, planning implementation and evaluation.[5] The main intention of the policy makers behind this reservation is twofold; one is the democratic justice and second is human resource utilization. …

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