Women’s Reservation Bill: 25 years on, the bill awaits a nod
India envisions to be a new egalitarian society, however, the Women's Reservation Bill that was introduced 25 years ago seeking amendment in the Constitution of India to secure 33% reservation for women in Parliament, still awaits a nod.
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 2 September 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 would 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
At present, the Bill is pending in Lok Sabha. It will only be passed if the ruling government supports the Bill in Lok Sabha as it has a majority in the Lower House of the Parliament.
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.