KI News

EQUITY IN ACTION: PROPELLING WOMEN’S VOICES IN INDIA’S PARLIAMENTARY CHAMBERS                                                                                           

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page


In the grand tapestry of Indian democracy, the question of gender parity in political representation stands as a poignant thread to be weaved. With the visionary leadership of the current government, India has the opportunity to elevate this discourse to new heights, advancing the cause of women’s reservation in the Indian Parliament as a cornerstone of inclusive governance and progressive nation-building.

The Women’s Reservation Bill was first introduced in the LokSabha in 1996 as the 81st Amendment Bill. The bill provided 33% reservation for women in the LokSabha and the legislative assemblies. The bill was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee but the bill lapsed after the LokSabha was dissolved.

In 1998, the 12th LokSabha saw the reintroduction of the bill. This time also, the bill lapsed after it failed to get any support. The bill was introduced again in 1999, 2002 and 2003 but met with the same fate as the previous times. In 2008, the bill was tabled in the RajyaSabha and was passed in 2010.

However, it was never introduced in the lower house and it lapsed with the dissolution of the House. After that, there has not been any movement on this bill.

The issue of women’s reservation has been around since the independence struggle. Even during the Constituent Assembly debates, the issue had come up but it was rejected on the grounds that a democracy would accord equal representation to all groups of people. However, in the post-independence decades, there was no improvement in the representation of women in politics and the numbers continued to be poor.

In 1971, the Committee for the Status of Women in India was established which talked about the declining women’s representation in Indian politics.

Even though the Committee was against the reservation of women in legislative bodies, it was for the reservation of women in local bodies.

After this, a few state governments started providing reservations for women in local bodies.

In 1988, the National Perspective Plan for Women suggested reservations be provided to women from the Panchayat to the Parliament level.

Accordingly, the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution were passed which led to the state governments mandatorily having to reserve one-third of the seats of the Panchayats and the urban local bodies for women.

Of the reserved seats for women, one-third are reserved for SC/ST women.

Currently, many states such as Kerala, Maharashtra, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand provide legal provisions to ensure 50% reservation for women in local bodies.

Women’s Reservation Bill 2023:

On 19 September 2023, The Constitutional 128th (One Hundred Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill or “Nari Shakti VandanAdhiniyam” 2023 was introduced in the LokSabha. The bill was passed with almost 100% consensus among members on 20 Sep paving the way for the reservation of 1/3rd of seats in the Parliament and the state legislatures, probably from the 2029 general elections.

The bill received a majority vote of 454-2.

It was the first time that the women’s reservation bill had been put to vote in the lower house.

Within the 33% quota, there would be sub-reservation for SC, ST and the Anglo-Indian communities.

However, the actual implementation of the bill might take years since the reservation for women is contingent upon the delimitation exercise.

And, for the delimitation exercise to be carried out, the census should be conducted. The current number of LokSabha seats, i.e., 543, is based on the last census carried out in 1971. A census was supposed to have been carried out in 2021 but the covid-19 pandemic saw it being postponed indefinitely.

The census will be followed by a delimitation exercise.

The number of seats in the LokSabha might go up to 888 after the next delimitation census.

It is only after the delimitation exercise is conducted that the bill will be implemented. So, it will likely be implemented in the 2029 elections.

On 21st September 2024, The Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, or the “Nari Shakti VandanAdhiniyam”, and its six clauses were passed with all 214 members present in the Upper House voting in favour of them and none against.

Rationale for Reservation:

The case for women’s reservation in the Indian Parliament is not merely a matter of arithmetic but a moral imperative and a strategic necessity. It is rooted in the foundational values of democracy, where every citizen’s voice deserves to be heard, and every perspective contributes to the tapestry of governance. By providing reserved seats for women, the government acknowledges the historical marginalization of women in politics and takes proactive steps to dismantle barriers to their participation. This visionary approach recognizes that gender diversity in decision-making bodies enhances governance outcomes, fosters social cohesion, and paves the way for a more inclusive and prosperous nation.

Despite strides made in various sectors, the representation of women in the Indian Parliament remains dishearteningly low. Women occupy a mere fraction of seats in both the LokSabha and the RajyaSabha, underscoring the urgent need for transformative change. Yet, under the stewardship of the current government, there exists a palpable momentum towards rectifying this imbalance, guided by the principles of equity, justice, and empowerment.

The proposed bill calls for the reservation of one-third (33.33%) of the total seats in the LokSabha and state legislative assemblies for women.

It mandates 33 percent reservation for women in the LokSabha, the state Legislative Assemblies, and the Delhi Assembly.

It also reserves one-third of seats for women within the existing SC and ST reservations.

Seats will be reserved on a rotational basis, and reservations will cease after 15 years.

The significance of the Women’s Reservation Bill in India is multifaceted and has far-reaching implications. Under Representation of Women in Legislature, globally, women currently occupy only 26.7% of parliamentary seats and 35.5% of local government positions. Such a step by India, a large economy can have a positive impact globally as well.

The primary objective of the bill is to promote gender equality and empower women by providing them with adequate political representation. Women constitute nearly half of India’s population, and ensuring their participation in decision-making processes is a fundamental aspect of gender justice.

The bill aims to increase the political participation of women at all levels of government. By reserving seats for women, it encourages women to enter politics, contest elections, and hold public office.

Women’s Voices and Issues: Increased representation of women in legislatures ensures that women’s voices are heard on critical issues, including those related to women’s rights, education, health, and safety. It can lead to policies and legislation that address gender-based discrimination and violence.

Women elected to political office can serve as role models for other women and girls, inspiring them to pursue leadership roles in various fields, including politics.

The reservation of seats for women challenges traditional gender roles and stereotypes, challenging the patriarchal nature of Indian politics and society.

Research has shown that gender diversity in decision-making bodies, including legislatures, often leads to better governance and decision-making, as diverse perspectives and experiences are considered.

Social and Economic Development: Empowering women politically can have positive effects on social and economic development. It can lead to policies that promote gender-sensitive development, improved access to education and healthcare for women, and increased economic opportunities.

The bill can contribute to reducing gender disparities in various sectors, including education, employment, and healthcare, as women’s concerns and priorities are more likely to be addressed.

International Commitments: India is a signatory to international agreements and conventions that call for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Implementing the Women’s Reservation Bill demonstrates India’s commitment to these international obligations.

The bill encourages political parties to promote women leaders and give them opportunities to contest elections, which can lead to a more inclusive and diverse political landscape.

Under the sagacious leadership of the current government, India has witnessed unprecedented strides towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. From launching transformative initiatives such as BetiBachao, BetiPadhao to empowering women entrepreneurs through schemes like Stand-Up India, the government has demonstrated unwavering commitment to advancing the rights and opportunities of women across the nation.

Moreover, the recent passage of landmark bills, such as the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act etc reflects the government’s resolve to address systemic inequities and create an enabling environment for women to thrive in all spheres of life.

Challenges and Opposition:

While the vision for women’s reservation in the Indian Parliament enjoys broad support, it is not without its detractors. Some critics argue that reservation based on gender undermines the principle of meritocracy and may dilute the quality of parliamentary discourse. Others raise concerns about the logistical challenges and administrative complexities associated with implementing reservation. However, under the astute leadership of the current government, these challenges are viewed not as insurmountable obstacles but as opportunities for dialogue, innovation, and pragmatic solutions.

As India marches boldly towards a future of inclusive governance and equitable representation, the path to women’s reservation in the Indian Parliament shines with promise and possibility. It is incumbent upon all stakeholders – government, civil society, and citizens alike – to join hands in this noble endeavor, transcending partisan divides and embracing the transformative power of gender diversity in governance. Through collaborative action and visionary leadership, India can chart a course towards a more just, equitable, and prosperous future for all.

In conclusion, the case for women’s reservation in the Indian Parliament under the visionary leadership of the current government is not merely a matter of policy but a moral imperative and a historic opportunity. By championing this cause with courage and conviction, India has achieved its commitment to democracy, equality, and inclusive nation-building & has weaved a future where every citizen’s voice is heard, every perspective is valued, and every woman is empowered to shape the destiny of our nation.

The writer can be contacted at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *