The Lok Sabha passed the Women's Reservation Bill on September 20, 2023, with a majority of 454 votes in favour of the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill. Only two members, Asaduddin Owaisi and Syed Imtiyaz Jaleel of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen, opposed the bill. The historic Women’s Reservation Bill ‘Nari Shakti Vandanam Adhiniyam, 2023 is underway in the Rajya Sabha after the Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal tabled the Bill on September 21, 2023.
The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1996 and passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 however it lapsed in the Lower House amid opposition.
The Women's Reservation Bill will reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women. This is a significant step towards increasing the representation of women in Indian politics. Currently, women hold only 14.4% of seats in the Lok Sabha and 11.8% of seats in state legislative assemblies.
The bill is expected to have a significant impact on Indian politics. It will increase the representation of women in decision-making positions and help to address the gender gap in India. It will also give women a greater voice in the political process.
Calling it a “historic legislation” that will enable greater participation of women in the political process, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to X (formerly, Twitter) to thank the Lok Sabha members.
Here's a brief about the Women's Reservation Bill and the journey since its introduction in 1996.
Women's Reservation Bill
The Bill was first introduced in the parliament on September 2, 1996 by the United Front government led by HD Deve Gowda.
Aim of the Women's Reservation Bill
Women's Reservation Bill seeks amendment in the Constitution of India to achieve 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Assemblies.
Reservation on a rotational basis
The seats will be reserved on a rotational basis, meaning that the seats will only be reserved once in every three consecutive General Elections in the country. Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
The idea for the Women's Reservation Bill
The idea for the Bill originated from a constitutional amendment that took place in 1993. It stated that one-third of sarpanch (or council leader) positions in the gram panchayat should be reserved for women.
Significance of the Women's Reservation Bill
Women's political empowerment is based on three fundamental principles. These are as follows:
1- Equality between the two genders-- male and female.
2- Right to self-representation and self-determination.
3- Right to the full development of their potential.
Criticism of Women's Reservation Bill
The Women's Reservation Bill was opposed on many grounds by RJD and SP, along with other political parties.
The opponents of the Bill argue that if passed, it will perpetuate unequal status among women since there will be a lack of merit.
They further contended that the Bill restricts the choice of the voters to women candidates and diverts attention from the larger electoral issues such as the criminalisation of politics and inner-party democracy.
Women's Reservation Bill: Journey so far
The Bill that was introduced in 1996 has been re-introduced in 1998, 1999 and 2008 but has failed to go through even after 25 years. On two occasions, the copies of the Bill were snatched and torn in the House.
It was sent to the standing committee for review post which the Bill was reintroduced and passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010. The Bill, however, lapsed with the 15th Lok Sabha.
Present Status of the Women's Reservation Bill
Finally, the Lok Sabha passed the Women's Reservation Bill on September 20, 2023, with a majority of 454 votes in favour of the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill. Once the bill is passed by both houses of parliament, it will be sent to the President for his signature. Once the President signs the bill into law, it will become the 128th Amendment to the Indian Constitution.
India's rank in terms of women in the Parliament
Globally, India ranks 145th in a list of 193 countries, below China (86th) and Pakistan (114th), at a time when the number of women parliamentarians in the country is at an all-time high of over 14%. The list released each month by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is based on the percentage of women in national parliaments.
Do you know?
There are 78 women MPs in the Lok Sabha, the highest in the history of the House. The first Lok Sabha had 24 women members.