The Independent Student Newspaper of Ashoka University

Where are the Women in Ashokan Politics?

In light of #MeToo and the controversy from the previous election cycle regarding the position of political parties in Ashoka vis-a-vis sexual harassment, calls for a more sound representation of women in the student government have been louder than ever. With the elections impending, The Feminist Collective hosted a meet on the night of 4 February to discuss the representation of women and non-binary people in the House. And thus, The Edict brings to you its annual coverage of the gender-breakup of the candidates list for the student government elections.

One of the oldest parties in Ashokan electoral politics, Prakrit currently has equal representation of men and women in their candidacy list for the upcoming elections. Moreover, the rankings in the candidate list alternate between men and women, in an attempt to show no preferential treatment for either gender. The distribution has improved from last year where only 6 of the 14 candidates were women.

The newest entry to the political scene at Ashoka University seems to be consistent in terms of equitable representation of men and women, with last year’s candidate distribution being 50–50. Gender sensitivity seems to have become a key instrument in their campaign strategy with posters all over the campus promising the student body the first female sports minister if they come to power. This year they have 7 women and 8 men on their list, although, of the first 5 ranks, 3 are held by women.

Dhamma did not contest elections last year; they withdrew from the election cycle due to “structural and ideological reasons”, but one cannot help but speculate that this may also be an impact of the fact that some senior members of the party were caught in a storm of a sexual harassment scandal. This year, with new leadership and candidates at the helm, they are fielding only 7 candidates.

Although they are fielding fewer candidates than before they are also fielding fewer women candidate. Dhamma ranks the lowest among contesting parties with only 2 out of 7 (29%) of its candidates being women. This distribution is a sharp drop from the last time the party contested the elections where 7 out of 15 of the candidates were women (2017).

Independent Candidates 
Only one independent candidate is standing for the 2019 elections, Esther David, they are the only non-binary person on the list.

Just a note to take into consideration, the rank of female candidates on the list matters with regard to their chances of getting into the House. Since, in the previous House, 73% of members who were elected were men, while the remaining 27% were women.

According to data, men dominated almost three quarters of the House last term.

But we, at The Edict, believe that the issue goes beyond the candidate lists. Conversations surrounding the importance of women in positions of power, and impact it has on policy need to be undertaken. Moreover, the conception of politics as a realm dominated must be reimagined by urging more women to run, and normalising the place of women in positions of power. This year’s student government elections are scheduled for the 7th of February, 2019. Several sections of the student population are rooting for many of the female candidates, which begs the most important question: Will Ashoka University finally have its first female president this election cycle?

Corrigendum: The Edict had wrongly reported that the independent candidate identified as a woman. The correction has been made on 5 February 2019.

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