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India's Women's Vote Becomes More Independent

Fewer husbands can tell their wives which candidate to back
India's Women's Vote Becomes More Independent
Photograph by Rafiq Maqbool/AP Photo

To avoid upsetting her husband, Urmila Devi told him she’ll heed his request to vote for India’s ruling Congress party when their village of 50 families participates in national elections. Once inside the polling booth, she plans to ignore his suggestion. “I’ll vote for a different party,” Devi, 26, says outside her one-room house in Galanodhan Purwa village in Uttar Pradesh state, where she cares for her two children. “I’m concerned about women’s safety. It should be the government’s top priority.”

A growing number of women are defying traditional gender roles in India and asserting their voice in elections that began on April 7 and end on May 16. Prompting the change: Higher literacy rates, greater financial independence, and a desire to stem violence against women, which became a highly visible issue after the gang rape and murder of a student in New Delhi in December 2012.