By Jessica Ghosh
The women’s reservation bill was passed recently by the Lok Sabha [the Lower house of the Indian parliament] with 454 votes in its favor and only 2 against it, and the bill was unanimously passed by the Rajya Sabha. The ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ (‘women’s Reservation Bill’) bill reserves 1/3rd or 33% of the seats in the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies for women, which indicates that once it is implemented the number of women members in the Lok Sabha will likely increase e from 82 to 181.
Women’s participation in politics in India has always been quite low in, especially in comparison to other countries. Nepal has the highest rank in south Asia, with 33% women’s participation in politics whereas, only 14% of the MPs of the Indian Lok Sabha are women. As per ranking of women in National Parliament, India is 141 out of 185,Pakistan is 1111th with 19% women in Parliament, Bangladesh is ranked 109th with 20.9% women in Parliament and Nepal at 53rd with more than 33% in both Houses of Parliament.
The 128th Amendment bill which is notably also the first bill to be tabled in the New Parliament building, has an almost thirty years of struggle, throughout which it has been rejected on various grounds on numerous occasions. Its history dates back to 1987, when a committee of 14 member was formed for the National Perspective Plan for women 1988-2000, during the Rajiv Gandhi government, which in 1988 made recommendations regarding reservation of women in elected bodies among many other things.
In 2010, the Rajya Sabha passed the 108th Constitution amendment Bill during the tenure of the UPA government however, it lapsed after the Lok Sabha did not vote on it. Though the bill has become an Act (in 2023) it is only after 2026 that it can be actually implemented. The quota will come into force only after delimitation of seats as there is a freeze on altering seats until 2026 as per the 24th Constitutional Amendment which mandates that the next delimitation exercise be done based on the first population census conducted after 2026.The Census that was to be in conducted in 2021 has been delayed inadvertently and no timeline for the next census has been given by the government.
Currently, India has only a single woman Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal. It is important that all parties introduce internal 33% reservation for women in the general election in 2024, to prove to the nation that it is not merely a token on paper. The growing rate of crimes against women needs to be checked and most importantly the political parties should refrain from playing politics over them.
The ruling party has stayed quite passive when the violence against women in Manipur came in the forefront, similarly the opposition parties keep quiet when violence against women is reported from states like Bengal. Even women legislators keep quiet in most of these situations. Women empowerment is crucial to any countries development. It is high time that the political parties take it up as a genuine concern and work towards it sincerely regardless of their political stance. Only then the ACTS and laws will be deemed as truly effective.