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India elects first woman president


National lawmakers and state legislatures have chosen Pratibha Patil as India's president, the first woman to hold the largely ceremonial post.

Patil, the 72-year-old candidate of the governing Congress party and its political allies, took nearly two-thirds of the vote Saturday to defeat incumbent Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the 84-year-old candidate of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, the election commission said.
The win by Patil, a lawyer and governor of the northwestern state of Rajasthan, was hailed as a victory for women in a country where gender discrimination is deep-rooted and widespread.

"It is a special moment for us women, and men of course, in our country because for the first time we have a woman being elected president of India," said Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, who hand-picked Patil and was one of the first to congratulate her.

Still, it's not clear how much Patil can or will do to improve the lives of her countrywomen.

While India has had several women in positions of power, most notably Indira Gandhi, who became prime minister in 1966, women still face hardships based on the view that they are a financial burden to their families.

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