Women Reservation Bill

Democratization and representative institutions provide the framework for political activity while setting the terminology for citizen participation. Inequalities that describe the idea of political equity as a feature of our social structure are an important component of every democratic agenda. The women’s movement platform encompasses an entire array of issues ranging from the redistribution of resources to the redistribution of time and obligations in the household, to improvements to the electoral process and parliamentary democracy.

The democratization phase has been opposed by shifting patterns of wealth, caste and gender ties, which follow their different and sometimes conflicting interests. A guarantee of equal status and opportunities was the strongest attraction in a liberal democracy. The basic values of democracy are constantly being questioned by a cultural and ethnic diverse population (equality, social justice). People’s demonstrations were important in the transition of democracy and in portraying democracy itself.[1]

The political framework of every nation should be based on the principles of democratic and equal representation. Unequal representation of women on the political stage clearly shows the flaws of our democratic system. Women Reservation Bill has been constantly opposed and it is being suppressed by forces of wealth, caste and gender inequality. The agenda of this bill is to give fair representation to women candidates in both the houses so that women also have an equal say in the political decisions of the country.

The whole process to legislate the women’s reservation bill has not been easy. Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda first introduced the bill at Lok Sabha in 1996. This bill created chaos as two years after 1996, this bill was reintroduced but a Rashtriya Janta Dal MP tore the draft of this bill in the assembly. This bill was included in the Common Minimum Programme which stated that the UPA government will enact the legislation reserving one-third seats for women candidates in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha. Following this, in 2005, BJP gave its complete support for the bill.[2]

Later on, this bill was introduced by Manmohan Singh government in 2008 and finally, it was passed by Rajya Sabha in 2010. This came as great news for the feminist leaders because, for the past nine years, there had been no development regarding this bill.

The Bill that gives women 33 per cent quota will not only empower women but in many respects alter India’s social structure. This Legislation is ground-breaking and is in making a quiet change. We have to welcome this as a law. While women continue to be largely outside the national public space following long years of democratic politics. Their existence here, given the natural barriers that encourage men while debarring women, is mostly symbolic and exists. This is because women’s roles tend to be relegated to the private sphere consciously and subconsciously, as men are given public roles. It has been established that giving women rights not only helps women but also helps the family and the community.[3]

Standing Committee Report

The 2008 Bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Law and Justice.

The Committee found it appropriate to have a reservation to ensure the women’s representation and to ensure the integration of the democratic process. It claimed that quotas in Panchayats and municipalities have had positive impacts for women at the grass root and argued that the need for women to be reserved in-state meetings and the parliament has been further enhanced.

For women to gain sufficient political representation in the parliament and state legislatures, the committee suggested that the 15-year cap prescribes for reservation be re-examined.

Methods have not been made clear in the Act to establish the seats reserved for women. The Commission suggested that the government take this issue fully into account.

The committee recommended that a quota of women in Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils and other disadvantaged groups be accepted by the legislature.[4]

Arguments in Favour of Women’s Representation Bill

  • Women’s Reservation Bill is a good idea to have more female MPs in Parliament and more female MLAs in our state assemblies. Most people are fully convinced that women should be actively involved in politics.
  • It will increase the number of woman members of parliament and state legislative assemblies.
  • Women’s issues will be given much greater priority in Parliament and can be easily resolved.
  • The introduction of the bill will contribute to gender equality in Parliament and will have an impact on women’s empowerment as a whole.
  • Parliamentary leadership will be good because of women’s managerial skills.
  • It will eliminate discrimination against women in Parliament and change the attitude towards women in the public sphere.
  • Women in Parliament will act more responsibly.
  • It will provide qualified and active people with more electoral incentives.
  • Including a vote of women for at least one term in each district over the 15 years is a major step towards a growing gender gap.
  • The quick change in women’s lifestyle.
  • It will be very beneficial to society because the elected representative of women will be closely linked to the social issues of women.
  • The current involvement of women heading small regional parties demonstrates their successful political leadership.[5]

Arguments against

  • Women’s concerns in Parliament cannot bring about a real change in the status of women in society. It cannot be effective in fighting social problems in any way.
  • It is not assured that the socially backward and disadvantaged women who need them will receive assistance.
  • Most MLAs and MPs with parliamentary and state meetings also seek to get the wife and other relatives to serve their seats.
  • The rights of competent and successful parliamentary candidates will be curtailed.
  • Men will be oppressed by the access of women to social and political activities since reservation means killing other rights.
  • Currently, the quota for SC & ST groups in the accounts of Lok Sabha & State Assembly is 22%. If this bill is passed, the minimum quota will be 55%. This will reduce the odds of competitors in the general category.
  • Women’s reservation bill is unlikely to succeed. If you see the estimates of the seats allotted to the women candidates by the two major parties, you may realize that they are only seeking positions, but they are not enforcing the same. There is nothing like a leader of a woman or a leader of a man when it comes to governance. There is only one term that is a chief in politics. Thus what is ultimately required is an ethical dictator.
  • MPs and MLAs may not be able to work dedicatedly because of the rotating process because they are not required to win local people to vote in favour.
  • Many minority communities may not take this opportunity because the majority of women in these societies are less likely to use it. This can add to their alleged incompetence. 

General Elections 2019

The Bharatiya Janata Party vowed to reserve 33% of parliamentary seats and state assemblies for women in the election manifesto. The Women’s welfare and development would be given high priority at all levels of government and is committed to reserving 33% in parliament and state assemblies through a constitutional amendment as per the manifesto. Women are listed 37 times in the 48-page BJP manifesto.[6]

The election manifesto of BJP Lok Sabha aims to guarantee gender equality in Indian society. The opposition Congress party also included it in their manifesto and promised to pass in the first session of Parliament. The Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared that the Biju Janata Deal (BJD) would reserve 33% of women’s seats in the upcoming general election. In 2018, the government of Biju Janata Dal-led Odisha adopted a resolution seeking a quota of 33% for women in parliament.

Conclusion

The Women’s Reservation Bill’s trajectory in India was characterized by a high war drama with phrases repeated many points over and over without agreement. As a consequence, women’s empowerment has lost the whole problem. One of the problems, for example, with the Lok Sabha approval, is that of the legislation. This matter is urgently needed, as the challenge of enforcing the law based on rights–food, education, safety, sanitation and supply of water, clean energy, demographic change, and jobs-will be increased and incorporated by women.

Women’s active engagement in local self-governing bodies demonstrates that many women are good leaders and spend more time and effort in them. Improved women’s political participation will help them fight the violence, inequality, and disparities they face. Women’s organizations need to be constructive and put pressure on the government to implement the bill.  Men should also make room for women in the decision-making process without any prejudice, apart from all of these, the key issues related to the policy of reservation must also be discussed with dispassion. In India, which is a male dominant society, women’s quotas will act as a catalyst for change. It can only start to change, but progress will come if society changes its attitude towards women. Women’s political empowerment is seen as an effective and necessary weapon to eradicate gender inequality and discrimination. 


[1] The populist challenge to liberal democracy, https://www.brookings.edu/research/the-populist-challenge-toliberal-democracy/ (last accessed 2 June 2020)

[2] One-Third Reservation in Parliament: Here’s Why Indian Women Need This Bill, https://www.thebetterindia.com/143745/one-third-reservation-parliament-indian-women-bill/ (last accessed 2 June 2020) 

[3] Women leaders stall quota bill – India News, https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/women-leaders-joinforces-to-stall-quota-bill-71038-2010-04-06 (last accessed 2 June 2020)

[4] Women’s Day and Reservation: Status of women in India, PRSINDIA (2010), http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/women%E2%80%99s-day-and-reservation-status-women-india (last accessed 2 June 2020)

[5] Women’s Day and Reservation: Status of women in India, PRSINDIA (2010), http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/women%E2%80%99s-day-and-reservation-status-women-india (last accessed 5 June 2020) 

[6] BJP promises 33 per cent reservation for women in parliament, REUTERS, April 8, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/india-election-women-idUSKCN1RK0M9 (last accessed 5 June 2020)

Bhavik Jain from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

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