Are India’s women more politically empowered than American women?
The World Economic Forum has put India up there when it comes to empowerment of women politically. India is ahead of countries like the United States and Japan. While India is ranked 20th, the United States is ranked 66th. An anomaly. And Bangladesh scores 17th and Sri Lanka as high as 7th!
How can this be even when we know the womens’ rights in the high ranking third world countries are not as good as they are in the United States? Well, for one thing, the World Economic Forum’s gives points for countries which have or have had women Prime Ministers and Presidents. But once we know how these women got to the positions they did, then we realise that the ranking actually means nothing much.
Let us see how some of these women became leaders. Rather, how these princesses became queens.
India: Indira Gandhi was the daughter of Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. And Sonia Gandhi is the daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi.
Sri Lanka: Sirimavo Ratwatte Dias Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka, the world’s first female prime minister happened to be the wife of a previous Sri Lankan Prime Minister (Solomon Bandaranaike) and the mother of Sri Lanka’s third President (Chandrika Kumaratunga.)
Pakistan: Benazir Bhutto was the daughter of the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
Bangladesh: Khaleda Zia is the widow of the late dictator Zia ur Rahman. And Hasina Wajed who was the prime minister of Bangladesh is the daughter of Mujibur Rahman, the first president of Bangladesh.
This is not a complete list…but it sure tells us what made these women. They certainly didn’t get to where they did by starting at the bottom. They might be highly capable women, but that is not the point, is it? Are highly capable women being allowed to rise to the top job if their husbands and fathers are not political leaders? After all, the real criteria of empowerment of women is when the woman breaks through the glass ceiling…but in these cases the women were way above the glass ceiling right from the start…from their birth!
Actually American women are far more empowered then Indian women or women from the above countries. Consider more statistics. The US has 15% of women in parliament and 14% in ministerial positions! But because the country has never had a woman in the top job, it got a low ranking. On the other hand, India has just 8% of women in parliament and a mere 3% who are ministers. It is unlikely that any of these women can even hope of becoming Prime Minister. Sonia Gandhi did stand a chance…but again she is from India’s first political family. Sure, men too benefit from this, as Rajiv Gandhi did, but there are many men who have got to be Prime Minsters without their fathers, mothers or sisters being there first!
Update: Hillary Clinton is standing for President of America. One wonders whether she would have stood a chance if it wasn’t for the fact that her husband was President? I doubt it…I think she would have still been a lawyer. She gave up her law practice only when her husband became President and being the President’s wife must have aroused in her an ambition to become President…and hope as well. I think Britain is one country which can proudly claim that their Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher got to where she was on her own, without a political father/mother/brother/husband pedigree.
Related reading: India’s first woman president
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How the media portrays women
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Status of women is slowly improving in urban India
Child marraige now illegal