Women in the Panchayats - A study of gender structures and the impact of the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution
Abstract: In 1993 the 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution came into force, affecting the Indian rural governing bodies, the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). The Amendment, at focal point for this thesis, provides a 33% reservation for women as members and as chairperson in the PRI's three-tier system. The reservation has led to a tremendous mobilization of women in the countryside, resulting in one million elected representatives. This thesis is a case study based on the Chamoli District in the state of Uttaranchal, India. The theoretical framework and interviews in the field function as a foundation for a greater understanding of gender, representation and empowerment. The main focus throughout the analysis is whether, and if this is the case, which qualitative changes occur as a result of this mass foray of elected women into the political sphere. A number of women are being influenced and controlled by their husbands and male relatives, but the study also reveals how others, although facing structural barriers, have taken the step out of the household striving for an active part in the public sphere. In this process they have brought their experiences of the private sphere and household management into the public and in significant cases been successful pioneers and role models.
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