The issue of women’s political inclusion within legislative assemblies has been debated in India at least since 1996, when an amendment Bill (the Women’s Reservation Bill) was introduced in Parliament. The objective of the bill was to reserve for women 33% of the seats in the Lok Sabha as well as in the state legislative assemblies. This bill is still officially under discussion and supported by a large coalition of parties. Yet, little progress has been made since it was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) in 2010, as it has never been put to the vote in the Lok Sabha.
Although 20 years of discussion have not been enough to solve this political deadlock, the debates have brought salience to the issue of women’s political representation, which is now widely discussed in the public sphere. In spite of the absence of quotas, there has been a timid yet significant feminization of the national Parliament as well as legislative assemblies since 1996. However, women still represent only 12% of the MPs and an even smaller percentage of MLAs, 7.3%. SPINPER disaggregates these data in terms of time and space in order to compare the performances of different states and to measure the impact of the reforms which had been initiated during the inclusive phase of Indian politics.
Indeed, since 1992, one-third of the seats at least are reserved for women in the Panchayati raj system (elected councils in rural areas) and in the municipalities. These reservations have attracted considerable attention, particularly when it comes to their implementation in rural areas, except for a few studies looking at the situation in urban municipalities. Most of this research has focused on the profiles of elected women as well as their autonomy vis-à-vis their male kin. They have shown that implementation of these reservations has produced mixed results. Indeed, though reservations have undoubtedly opened up new political avenues for women, many have pointed out that the autonomy of female elected representatives is often limited, and they often, though not systematically, act as a proxy for their (male) kin. So far, there has been no inquiry into whether female MPs and MLAs are also part of male-dominated political families and whether these changes at the local level have had an impact on the political inclusion of women in the Vidhan Sabhas and Lok Sabha.
SPINPER measures the evolution of the number of women in these assemblies and their trajectory in order to assess the impact of the 1992 reform: have female MLAs and MPs started their career in local councils or not? SPINPER will allow us to assess whether there is a link between the introduction of quotas at the local level and the election of female candidates for the post of MLA. States that have introduced a 50% reservation for women at the local level will be compared to states that have kept the quota at a 33% level.