Explore the key details of the Women’s Reservation Bill, its significance, and the ongoing discussions surrounding gender representation in Indian politics.Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (Women’s Reservation Bill)The Long Road to EmpowermentA Bill Born of Decades-Long DebateA Monumental Debut in the Sansad BhavanThe Bill’s Provisions and PassageReserving Seats for WomenOverwhelming Support in Lok SabhaThe State of Gender RepresentationThe Ongoing Gender DisparityA Gradual IncreaseSteps Towards EmpowermentAiming for 181 Women ParliamentariansTiming Matters – Census and DelimitationThe Importance of State RatificationInclusivity Concerns and CritiquesInclusive Representation – The Missing PieceConclusion
Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam (Women’s Reservation Bill)
The Indian political landscape is poised for a historic change with the introduction of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, also known as The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023. Commonly referred to as the Women’s Reservation Bill, this legislation aims to reshape gender representation in India’s legislative bodies. In this article, we delve into the details of the bill, its historical context, and the critical debates it has ignited.
The Long Road to Empowerment
A Bill Born of Decades-Long Debate
The Women’s Reservation Bill represents the culmination of a legislative debate that has spanned 27 years. It traces its roots back to the lapsed Women’s Reservation Bill of 2010, which faced hurdles due to the lack of consensus among political parties. This protracted debate is emblematic of the complexities surrounding gender representation in Indian politics.
A Monumental Debut in the Sansad Bhavan
Notably, the Women’s Reservation Bill made its debut as the first matter considered in the newly constructed parliament building, the Sansad Bhavan. This setting adds a unique dimension to the bill’s significance, signifying its place in the nation’s political history.
The Bill’s Provisions and Passage
Reserving Seats for Women
The primary objective of the Women’s Reservation Bill is to reserve 33 percent of seats in both state and central legislative bodies for women. This provision seeks to address the glaring gender disparity in India’s political representation.
Overwhelming Support in Lok Sabha
On September 20, 2023, the Lok Sabha overwhelmingly passed the bill with 454 votes in favor and only two against it. This historic moment signifies a significant step toward gender parity in Indian politics.
The State of Gender Representation
The Ongoing Gender Disparity
As of 2023, the composition of the Lok Sabha reveals a stark underrepresentation of women Members of Parliament (MPs), constituting less than 15 percent of its members. This gender imbalance is even more pronounced in several state assemblies, where the representation of women falls below 10 percent.
A Gradual Increase
Despite the disparities, there is a gradual increase in the presence of female MPs in the Lok Sabha. From a mere 5 percent in the 1st Lok Sabha, it has risen to 14 percent in the current 17th Lok Sabha. The 2019 general election witnessed a significant surge in female participation, resulting in the election of 78 women MPs to the 17th Lok Sabha, marking a one-third increase compared to the 2014 election.
Steps Towards Empowerment
Aiming for 181 Women Parliamentarians
The bill, presented by State Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, aspires to elevate the number of Women Parliamentarians to 181. In the current 2023 Lok Sabha, comprising 542 members, only 78 are female members. The Rajya Sabha, with 224 members, includes 24 female members, making a total of 102 women parliamentarians as of 2023.
Timing Matters – Census and Delimitation
Union Home Minister Amit Shah clarified during the discussion that the census and the delimitation exercise would take place following the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The delimitation process involves revising constituency boundaries to accurately reflect population shifts.
The Importance of State Ratification
For full implementation, the bill requires ratification by a minimum of 50% of the states. This constitutional safeguard underscores the potential impact of the bill on the rights of individual states.
Inclusivity Concerns and Critiques
Inclusive Representation – The Missing Piece
Political parties such as the Congress, Samajwadi Party, and Rashtriya Janata Dal have criticized the bill for its omission of reserved seats for OBC (Other Backward Classes) and Minorities women. They argue that such provisions are essential to ensure equitable representation for these marginalized groups. The absence of quotas could impede the voices of marginalized women in Parliament.
The Women’s Reservation Bill of 2023 is a pivotal moment in India’s quest for gender parity in politics. Its passage signifies a significant step forward, but the road ahead is not without its challenges. Balancing representation while addressing inclusivity concerns remains at the heart of the ongoing debate. As India continues its journey towards empowering women in politics, the Women’s Reservation Bill stands as a beacon of hope for a more equitable and inclusive political landscape.