India has a rich history of women political leaders who have made significant contributions to the country’s political landscape. Women political leaders often face various challenges and injustices that can hinder their ability to participate fully in political processes and governance. It’s important to note that efforts have been made to enhance women’s participation in politics in India, such as providing reservations for women in PRIs and local bodies. However, achieving gender equality in political representation remains a challenge, and further steps are needed to bridge the gender gap.

Gender representation in Indian politics as of 2021

Lok Sabha (House of the People):

In the 17th Lok Sabha (2019-2024), women held about 14% of the 545 total seats. This is an increase from previous terms but still falls significantly short of gender parity.

Rajya Sabha (Council of States):

As of 2021, women held around 11% of the 245 seats in the Rajya Sabha.

State Legislative Assemblies:

The representation of women in state legislative assemblies across India varied widely. In some states, women’s representation was notably higher, while in others, it remained low. The average was around 9-10%.

Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs):

The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution mandated reservations for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) at the local level. These reservations have led to significant women’s participation in rural governance. Women held a substantial number of seats at the Panchayat level.

Ministerial Representation:

Representation of women in ministerial positions has generally been limited. There have been instances of women holding key ministerial portfolios, but the percentage of women in ministerial positions has been relatively low compared to men.

Political Parties:

Some political parties in India have made efforts to promote women’s participation and representation. For example, the Indian National Congress has implemented a 33% reservation for women within the party’s structure.

Local and Municipal Bodies:

In local and municipal bodies, women’s representation varies by region. Some urban local bodies have seen a growing number of women elected as mayors or councillors.

The Constitutional Point of View

The Constitution of India guarantees equal rights to women in politics and various aspects of public life. Here are some of the key provisions and rights for women as per the Indian Constitution:

1. Right to Equality (Article 14): This article ensures that the state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws. It prohibits discrimination on the grounds of gender.

2. Right to Freedom (Article 19): Article 19 guarantees certain freedoms, such as freedom of speech and expression, assembly, association, etc., which are equally applicable to women.

3. Right to Vote (Article 326): This article guarantees the right to vote to all citizens without any discrimination based on gender. Women have the same voting rights as men.

4. Right to Contest Elections (Article 84 and Article 173): The Constitution allows women to contest elections at all levels of government, including the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and State Legislative Assemblies.

5. Reservation of Seats (Articles 243D, 243T, and 243ZA): The Constitution of India provides for the reservation of seats for women in local bodies like Panchayats and Municipalities. One-third of the seats are reserved for women in these institutions.

6. Reservations in Parliament (Article 330 and Article 332): Women are also provided with reservations in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. A certain number of seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women.

7. Prevention of Discrimination (Article 15): Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth. This includes discrimination against women in all spheres of life, including politics.

8. Right to Non-Discrimination (Article 15(3): This clause allows the state to make special provisions for women and children. As a result, the government can implement policies and programs to uplift women in politics and other fields.

9. Right to participate in public life (Article 15(4)): This clause allows the state to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes, including women, in matters related to public employment and participation.

10. Right to be free from exploitation (Article 23): Article 23 prohibits trafficking and forced labour, which often disproportionately affects women. This is indirectly related to their political rights as well.

11. Right to be free from atrocities (Article 46): Article 46 promotes the educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections, including women, and protects them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.


These constitutional provisions collectively ensure that women in India have equal rights in politics and are protected from discrimination and exploitation. While progress has been made, there are still ongoing efforts to further enhance women’s participation and representation in Indian politics.

Threats to women political leaders in India are unfortunately not uncommon, and there have been several high-profile cases over the years. Here are a few notable instances:

1. Indira Gandhi’s Assassination (1984): Indira Gandhi, India’s first female Prime Minister, was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for Operation Blue Star, which had targeted militants holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Her assassination led to anti-Sikh riots in which many Sikh women were targeted as well.

2. Phoolan Devi (1980s and 1990s): Phoolan Devi, a notorious dacoit who later became a Member of Parliament, faced threats and violence throughout her life. She was kidnapped and raped by bandits before becoming a bandit queen herself. She was eventually killed in 2001, likely due to political and personal rivalries.

3. Mukhtar Mai (2002): Though not a political leader in the traditional sense, Mukhtar Mai from Pakistan’s neighbouring region faced brutal sexual assault as a form of punishment in a tribal council. Her case brought international attention to the issue of violence against women in South Asia, including political and social leaders.

4. Violence During Election Campaigns: Female politicians often face violence, intimidation, and threats during election campaigns. Many cases of physical and verbal abuse, as well as instances of vandalism, have been reported.

These cases illustrate the challenges and dangers faced by women political leaders in India and the broader South Asian region. Threats can come from political opponents, extremist groups, or even within their own parties. Such incidents highlight the need for improved security measures and a safer environment for women in politics. Efforts are ongoing to address these issues and ensure that women political leaders can carry out their duties without fear for their safety.


Gender bias in Indian politics remains a persistent and pervasive issue. Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in political positions, from the national parliament to state legislatures. 

This underrepresentation is often perpetuated by gender stereotypes that cast women as less capable of leadership, as well as cultural and social norms that are resistant to women in political roles. Violence, harassment, and threats against women in politics remain common, further discouraging their participation. 

Additionally, women often have limited access to campaign resources, fewer opportunities to rise through the ranks of political parties, and may be held to different standards than their male counterparts. 

To address these biases, comprehensive efforts are required, including legal reforms, awareness campaigns, and support for women’s political participation, with the ultimate aim of achieving gender equality in the political arena.

Addressing threats to women political leaders in India is of utmost importance to ensure their safety, foster gender equality in politics, and empower women’s meaningful participation. 

It requires comprehensive measures such as strict enforcement of anti-harassment laws, security provisions for women leaders, awareness campaigns to challenge stereotypes and cultural norms, and capacity-building programs to equip women with skills and confidence to navigate the political landscape. 

Engaging political parties to promote gender equality within their ranks and fostering mentorship and support networks can further empower women leaders. Collaborating with international organizations and advocating for political will are essential steps, along with collecting data to monitor trends and evaluate preventive measures. By creating a conducive environment, India can pave the way for more women to participate in politics without fear and for their voices to be heard and respected.

Author:Srishti Pandey of Amity Law School, Noida


  1. This is a very burning issue. Women are always pushed back in Indian politics. On one hand the Constitution talks about countless rights and on the other hand women are sometimes removed from the way like Phoolan Devi and sometimes like Indira Gandhi. Hopefully some changes will be seen in the future.
    All the best Dear Srishti pandey and thnku for cast your light on this topic

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