Did women of India have voting rights before Independence?

Published: August 27, 2020

The United States observed the 100th anniversary of Women’s Equality Day on 26th August to commemorate the allowance of the constitutional right to vote to the American women. In the context of the special day let us discuss the voting rights of Indian Women before Independence.

Previous conditions

  • British officials opined that the voting right is not suitable for India. The voting system in the colonial era was limited to a few voters on the basis of religion, community, and profession.
  • The patriarchal society opined that giving women the voting right would cause the neglect of husbands and children
  • At the very beginning, even Mahatma Gandhi did not take any initiative with the demand of granting voting rights to women.

Prolonged battle

  • Indian women’s organizations developed a strong agitation to demand voting rights for women and limited voting rights were provided to the women in 1921.
  • After the enactment of the government of India act 1935, the United provinces and Odisha tried to take away the voting rights of women.
  • Own rules have been made by the provinces that put restrictions on the voting rights of women.
  • In order to get the voting right, they had to be a pensioned widow or the mother of a soldier or a wife of a taxpayer husband.

That clearly indicates,  the eligibility to vote of the woman depended largely on her husband’s qualifications and social status.

The general election of 2019 witnessed more women participation in the voting system and the gender gap has also narrowed to its lowest.

A total of 78 women parliamentarians are serving the country at present.

Changing of course

Bombay and Madras were the first provinces to grant limited voting rights to women in 1921. Later, several other provinces allowed voting rights to women during the time phase between 1923 and 1930.

  • Things started changing when independent India decided to give the universal franchise to its people.
  • In independent India, the total number of voters was 173 million, which included 80 million women. And about 85% of them had never voted before.

India learned from its glorious history that more inclusion of women in the development field eventually strengthened the governance of the country.

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