Perhaps the most heartening sight while travelling around the country during elections is long queues of women outside polling booths, waiting to vote. These lines are often longer than the separate queues for men. The current high level of women’s participation has been a major development in India’s democracy. In 1962, the turnout of women was only 47 per cent (of the total female electorate), yet by 2014, it had shot up to 66 per cent—up by nearly 19 percentage points. On the other hand, men’s turnout grew by only 5 per cent over the same period.
This differential growth rate in turnout has meant that, over time, women’s turnout in Lok Sabha elections has almost caught up with and is likely to overtake that of men soon, perhaps even as soon as the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. In 1962, women’s turnout was 15 per cent lower than men’s turnout; but by 2014, women’s turnout had almost reached parity with men, short by only 1.5 per cent. This represents a remarkable, if belated, turnaround over the last half-century.