India kerala evm election
An election official checks the EVM machines for the counting of votes for Kerala Assembly elections, at Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram on Sunday, May 2, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala stands out among India’s major states for the fact that it has more women in the population than men. Add to that the fact that it is India’s most literate state, the logical assumption would be that women will have their place in the sun.

When it comes to electoral representation, however, women in Kerala have been sidelined, a fact that has once more been underlined though the outcome of the latest assembly election which was historic for the fact that it gave a repeat term for the Left Democratic Front.

Unfair to women

India has been discussing a 33 per cent share for women in Parliament for over two decades with that ambition far from being fulfilled. It did not materialise even when the United Progressive Alliance was in power for a decade and a woman – Sonia Gandhi – was the UPA chairperson.

“Generally, women in politics turn a blind eye to injustices”, said Lathika Subhash, who tonsured her head and contested as an independent from Ettumanoor constituency when the Congress party denied her a ticket this time.

Kerala has followed the national pattern with regard to women’s representation in its state assembly. This time only 11 women made it to the assembly, which is 8 per cent of the 140-member House.

Left more fair to women

Of the 11 women who will be new MLAs when the House is convened, all but one are from the Left parties, and significantly there is not a single woman Congress MLA.

Eight women MLAs are from the Communist Party of India Marxist, two are from the Communist Party of India, and the lone opposition woman MLA is K.K. Rema of the Revolutionary Marxist Party, widow of the late CPM dissident T.P. Chandraskeharan who was hacked to death by his political rivals.

Rema’s presence in the assembly is considered to be a thorn in the flesh for the CPM, which is accused of Chandrasekharan’s killing.

Sidelined by all parties

Women have also been sidelined by the Kerala Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League.

The Kerala Congress has occasionally fielded women candidates but the IUML has been miserly in handing out seats to women. A good 25 years after it fielded Khamarunnisa Anwar in 1996, the IUML fielded another woman candidate this time – Noorbina Rasheed, a lawyer, from Kozhikode South constituency – but she lost to her LDF opponent.