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Empowerment at the Ballot Box

Women show newfound confidence with dramatic increase in voter turnout
12:00 AM May 30, 2024 IST | SHABIR IBN YUSUF
empowerment at the ballot box

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections in Jammu and Kashmir have marked a significant milestone in the UT's democratic journey, especially regarding female voter participation. The substantial increase in women's turnout, particularly in Srinagar and Baramulla constituencies, is a testament to the growing political engagement and empowerment among women in the Union Territory.


This development reflects a broader trend of enhanced voter participation across genders and signifies a notable shift in the region's electoral dynamics.


The most remarkable improvements in women's voter turnout were observed in the Srinagar and Baramulla Lok Sabha constituencies. In Srinagar, the turnout for women soared by approximately 20 percentage points, from a meager 12.67% in 2019 to an impressive 33.21% in 2024. This dramatic increase indicates a growing political awareness and participation among the women in the region’s capital, signaling a newfound confidence in their role within the democratic process.


Baramulla, too, witnessed a remarkable rise in women voters, with turnout increasing from 31.76% in 2019 to 55.63% in 2024. This nearly 24 percentage point surge is a clear indicator of changing attitudes towards women's roles in the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. The increased turnout in these constituencies is not just a statistical improvement but a reflection of the evolving socio-political fabric of the region.


Contrastingly, Udhampur saw a slight decline in female voter turnout, from 70.75% in 2019 to 69.21% in 2024. While the drop is marginal, it stands out amidst the overall trend of increased female political participation in the region. Analysts suggest that localized issues or specific candidates might have influenced this decrease, pointing to the complexity of electoral dynamics and the varied factors that affect voter behavior.


Jammu experienced a modest improvement in women's voter turnout, from 72.20% in 2019 to 72.71% in 2024. Although the increase is slight, it is a positive sign of sustained high levels of female engagement in the electoral process. The consistent participation of women in Jammu underscores the broader trend of enhanced political involvement among women in the region.


On average, across the four constituencies of Srinagar, Baramulla, Jammu, and Udhampur, female voter turnout has risen significantly, from 46.84% in 2019 to 57.69% in 2024. This marks an increase of nearly 11 percentage points, underscoring a broader trend of enhanced female participation in the democratic process. This rise in female voter turnout is a powerful indicator of the increasing political empowerment of women in Jammu and Kashmir.


Male voter turnout also saw a substantial rise, from 47.72% in 2019 to 61.35% in 2024, indicating a general surge in voter engagement across genders in Jammu and Kashmir. This overall increase in voter turnout reflects a renewed faith in the democratic process and a collective commitment to shaping the region's future through active participation.

Several factors have contributed to the increased voter turnout, particularly among women, in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Enhanced voter awareness campaigns have played a crucial role in educating and encouraging voters to exercise their democratic rights. These campaigns, often spearheaded by the Election Commission and various civil society organizations, have focused on the importance of voting and the impact of individual votes on the political landscape.

Better security measures have also been pivotal in encouraging voter participation. The assurance of a safe and secure voting environment has particularly benefited women voters, who may have previously been deterred by concerns about safety and security at polling stations. The deployment of additional security personnel and the implementation of stringent security protocols have helped create a conducive atmosphere for voting.

More accessible polling stations have further facilitated increased voter turnout. Efforts to ensure that polling stations are within easy reach for all voters, including women, have removed logistical barriers and made the voting process more convenient. The Election Commission's initiatives to set up women-friendly polling booths and provide special facilities for female voters have also contributed to the rise in women's participation.

Civil society organizations have been instrumental in driving the change in voter behavior. Through various grassroots initiatives, these organizations have worked tirelessly to empower women and encourage their participation in the electoral process. From conducting awareness workshops to providing voter education materials, civil society groups have played a crucial role in mobilizing female voters and fostering a culture of political engagement among women.

The increased voter turnout in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, particularly among women, marks the beginning of a new era of political engagement in Jammu and Kashmir. The significant rise in female participation is a clear indication of the changing socio-political dynamics in J&K and the growing empowerment of women in the democratic process. This shift is not just about numbers but represents a deeper transformation in the way women perceive their role in shaping the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir.

As J&K continues to evolve, the increased participation of women in the electoral process will undoubtedly have a lasting impact on the political discourse and policy-making in Jammu and Kashmir.

The 2024 Lok Sabha elections have set a precedent for future elections, highlighting the importance of inclusive and representative democracy and paving the way for a more politically engaged and empowered populace.

(The author is senior staffer Greater Kashmir)