Jul 23, 2007

India's Elects First Female President

Congratulations to the people of India for electing the first female President. In a landslide victory—a whopping 66%—Pratibha Pail, 72, was elected last Saturday. She defeated incumbent, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

India has also had a female Prime Minister—by far the more powerful position—the much-loved Indira Gandhi. (Indira was no relation to Mohandas Gandhi although he was a family friend). Indira Gandhi was the daughter of the Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, of the Nehru collar. When Indira was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, it set off nationwide protests that could have spun into civil war.

You may remember another female elected leader of the post-partitioned Indian state of Pakistan, the lovely Benazir Bhutto, who was elected not once but twice.

In India, the position of President is mostly ceremonial, but has traditionally been one to represent and to help underprivileged in the country. Discrimination against women is still a powerful force in a country that is otherwise hungry for modernization. If it weren't for the practice of dowries, one wonders if this would change. As Ms. Magazine put it, "Women's rights advocates expect that Patil's election to this mainly ceremonial role will further the social, political, and economic advancement of women and girls in India, which is desperately needed in a country where women are grossly discriminated against."

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