In a landslide election, India elected lawyer and politician Pratibha Patil to serve as the country’s first woman president. Patil defeated her opponent, India’s current vice president Bhairon Singh Skeawhat by a near two to one margin, despite recent controversy over her brother’s criminal past and allegations of financial irregularities.
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. Many families in India are expected to pay large dowries upon the marriage of their daughters, and, as a result of parents’ limiting the education of girl children, some 40 percent of women in India cannot read or write. As a self-declared advocate for women, Patil launched her presidential campaign earlier in the month with tremendous support from women, announcing that “women are the backbone of every home and have contributed greatly to the progress and development of [India],” the Hindu Daily reports.
Patil was backed by the governing Congress Party, including a key official, Sonia Ghandi of the Gandhi dynasty. The Ghandi family legacy still plays a large influential role in current Indian politics.