Femmes et politique en Inde et au Népal : Image et présence

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South Asia is the only region in the world where women have regularly occupied the top posts in government since the 1950s. But what is the place of women as a group in the political life of the subcontinent? Firstly, who represents women in the political arena in these two countries? And secondly, what do women stand for in their country’s politics? In the world’s largest democracy as well as in the small Himalayan kingdom women first entered national politics as symbols: women represented the home, the family and the nation before they demanded electoral representation and political rights. Their chronic under-representation in elected assemblies and councils since the 1950s does not however mean that women have been absent from public life. The author identifies four types of actors who can claim to represent women as a group. The study of the resources available to these actors as well as of the obstacles they have to overcome brings out the competition between two definitions of representation – “representation as a mandate” and “mirror representation”. It also shows how difficult it is to bring together women as a group, above differences of class, caste, religion, region et al. Lastly, the recent introduction of reserved seats for women in local bodies in both countries, and the demand for reservation of seats in the Indian national parliament, reveal the advances made by women in the political field as well as the limitations of gender as a political category.

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