- In a first big move after shifting to the new Parliament building, the government introduced a constitutional amendment bill named ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ to reserve one-third of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women, reviving a bill which has seen nearly three decades of stalling and discord over lack of consensus among parties.
- This legislation has been stuck for 27 years and has seen renewed interest.
- This article will discuss how this bill could prove to be a progressive step by the government.
Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam:
- It aims to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and assemblies.
- Seeks sub-reservation for the SCs, STs and Anglo Indians.
- The Bill asks for the insertion of a clause in Article 330A that one third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha be reserved for women within these categories.
- Another clause asks for one-third of the total seats to be filled by direct election to the Lok Sabha for women.
- The Bill seeks the insertion in Clause 2 of Article 239 AA, a subsection which asks for reservation for women in the legislative assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- Subsection (bb) further asks that one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs in the Delhi Assembly be reserved for women.
- This bill if adopted will increase the current number of women MPs from 82 to 181.
Features of the proposed bill
- Percentage of Seats:The proposed bill suggests that 33% of the seats in both the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament) and state legislative assemblies would be reserved specifically for women. This means that one-third of the total seats in these legislative bodies would be set aside for female candidates.
- Affirmative Action: The reservation quota is a form of affirmative action aimed at addressing historical gender imbalances in political representation. It seeks to ensure that women have a fair and substantial presence in the decision-making processes of the government. This is crucial for promoting gender equality and empowering women in the political sphere.
- Constitutional Amendment: Implementing such a reservation quota would require a constitutional amendment, as it involves altering the composition of elected bodies in India. Constitutional amendments typically require a special majority in both houses of Parliament.
How will this bill be helpful for women?
- It will enable greater participation of women in policy-making at the state and national levels and help achieve the goal of making India a developed country by 2047.
- Better representation will create an ecosystem for women to survive and thrive.
- As more women occupy space in the public sphere, it will generate greater confidence that they will be heard.
- It will create an ecosystem for women, who feel assured that they have representatives who will support, hear and protect them and stand for their rights.
- Currently, women only make up 14 per cent of parliament and legislatures in India, which is far lower than the world average.
- Once the bill comes into force, the number of women members in Lok Sabha will rise to 181 from the current tally of 82 women Lok Sabha members.
- The mere candidacy of women will ensure that they step out of their households and break through the barriers of entry into politics.
Challenges that have hindered the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill
- Concerns about Existing Reservations: One of the primary challenges facing the Women’s Reservation Bill is political opposition from some parties and leaders. They express concerns that the bill may dilute or disrupt existing reservations for marginalized communities, particularly Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs), and Other Backward Classes (OBCs). These reservations were implemented to address historical social and economic disparities.
- Conflict of Interests:Some political leaders worry that implementing the bill’s reservation quota for women may result in competition for seats between women candidates and those belonging to marginalized communities. This conflict of interests can create resistance to the bill, as political parties seek to balance these considerations.
Lack of Consensus
- Varying Party Stances:Building a consensus among India’s diverse political parties has proven to be challenging. Different parties have varying stances on the issue of women’s reservation. While some parties are strong advocates of the bill and its goals, others remain opposed or are hesitant about supporting it.
- Political Calculations: Political parties often make calculations based on their electoral strategies and voter demographics. The bill’s impact on these calculations can lead to political divisions and a lack of consensus on its passage.
- Patriarchal Norms: Deep-rooted patriarchal norms and gender biases in Indian society continue to be significant obstacles to women’s participation in politics. These norms can manifest in various ways, including the belief that women are less capable of leadership or that politics is a male-dominated domain.
- Family and Societal Pressures: Women often face family and societal pressures that discourage them from pursuing a career in politics. Concerns about safety, traditional gender roles, and societal expectations can dissuade women from taking an active role in politics.
- Violence and Harassment: The political arena in India is not immune to gender-based violence and harassment. Women politicians and candidates have reported instances of threats, harassment, and violence, which can act as deterrents to their participation.
- This Bill will not only alter the understanding of parliamentary democracy, but it’s very features.
- The empowerment of women is an irreversible force and societies and polities would do well to move with the change.
- The Women’s Reservation Bill, with its goal of reserving 33% of seats for women in Parliament and legislative assemblies, represents a significant step toward achieving gender equality in Indian politics.
- However, overcoming political challenges and societal norms remains crucial for its successful implementation. Advocacy, public awareness, and consensus-building efforts are essential for moving forward with this important legislation.