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Gender Gap Narrows In Maha Rolls

Bhavika Jain & Siva Kumar TNN

Mumbai/Chennai:

For a country that suffers from low sex ratios and female literacy rates, the 2019 general elections will herald a level of gender parity giving women voters a greater say. The latest enrolment data from two large states—Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu—shows that the gap between the male and female voter base has narrowed considerably in one state, while in the other, the number of women voters has overtaken that of registered men.

The increase in enrolment of female voters in both states is in keeping with the broader national trend of improved voter sex ratios (number of women voters for every 1,000 male voters). In the 2014 polls, Kerala, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Pondicherry already had more women in the electorate than men.

Tamil Nadu has now joined the club: of its 5.91 crore voters, as per the final revised rolls released on Thursday, 2.98 crore are women and 2.92 crore, men. The number of women voters in the state has increased by 11% against a rise of 8.5% for men, in the last five years.

Maharashtra, where the voter sex ratio was traditionally skewed towards men, has shown an increase in women voters by 13 lakh. As per final rolls, there are a total of 8.73 crore voters in Maharashtra, of which 4.57 crore are male and 4.16 crore are females. The voter sex ratio this year is thus 911 against 905 in 2014.

“The voter sex ratio before 2014 was 875 or 880. It was then that we undertook a special drive to enrol more women to increase their representation,” said a senior official in Maharashtra. The drive in the states has involved door-to-door verification, contact programmes using educational institutions, and outreach through women self-help groups and networks such as those established by welfare schemes like the aanganwadis.

Over the past decade, there has been increasing emphasis at the national level to increase electoral participation of women in all states. The all-India sex ratio of voters had, from 715 female voters for every 1,000 male voters in the 1960s, improved to 883 female voters in the 2000s. It was 940 in 2011, the highest since 1971.

By 2014, all the southern states had voter parity or near parity between women and their male counterparts. Kerala, of course, had more women voters—a reflection of its overall sex ratio—while Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka had nearly the same number of voters of both sexes.

EC’s efforts ebb impact of migration

The increased participation of women—who have made up for 47-48% of the electorate in Lok Sabha elections dating back to 1971—and improved voter sex ratios also denote the success of the Election Commission in countering the impact of migration on electoral rolls. As highlighted by TOI through its Lost Votes Campaign, a large chunk of the potential electorate is unable to exercise its franchise because of changes in address. In case of women, this is a crucial factor as many move house after marriage.

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