India was set to name its first female president Saturday, a symbolic victory for Indian women, hundreds of millions of whom still must contend with discrimination in nearly every facet of their lives.
Pratibha Patil, the 72-year-old candidate of the governing Congress party and its political allies, was virtually assured victory with the coalition commanding a majority among the national lawmakers and state legislators who voted in Thursday's presidential poll.
The election of a woman to the largely ceremonial post continues an Indian tradition using the presidency to bolster disadvantaged communities.
Hindu-majority India has had three Muslim presidents, including incumbent A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, since winning independence from Britain in 1947. It has also had a president from the minority Sikh community, and Kalam's predecessor, K. R. Narayanan, came from the bottom of the society's complex social hierarchy.