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February 17, 2017

Essay - Women's Reservation Bill : A Forgotten Issue

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Women's Reservation Bill - A Forgotten Issue

  • Introduction of Women's Reservation Bill in Indian Parliament. 
  • Define Women's Reservation Bill. 
  • Divergent views both positive and negative regarding the Bill. 
  • India's position in Human Development Report.
  • Necessity of Women's Reservation Bill. 
  • Positive effects of the Bill. 
  • Criticism against the Bill. 
  • Achievements of the Bill.
"In politics if you want anything said, ask a man. If you want anything done, ask a woman". 
Margaret Thatcher 

Women's Reservation Bill was first presented in 20Q8 by UPA Government on as 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill. The Bill was passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010. However, the introduction was also attempted previously in 1996 but not see the light of day in any house. In the last two decades, various efforts have been put in by different governments. But the effort to our dismay has met a dead end.

Reservation for any group is an 'affirmative action' by the state to promote or empower or emancipate the group. As in almost every case these groups have faced handicap in past due to systematic or social discrimination. In this context, when 72nd Constitutional Amendment was passed in India, providing for grassroot democracy at the Panchayat level, 33% seats were reserved for women. This provision has substantially changed the face of villages in our country. Women folks getting elected as a leader, have become an agent of change and have contributed towards the well being of other women too.

In the Indian Parliament, Women's Reservation Bill as 108th Amendment to Constitution, was presented in 2008. It seeks to provide 33% reservation for women in Parliament and State Assemblies. The Bill also has a provision where one third seats will be reserved for women from the seats reserved for Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribe in Parliament and State Assembly. Reservation of seats in the constituency will be allotted by rotation in Parliament and State Assembly. An authority will be appointed by Parliament which will determine the allocation of reserved seats. Also the Bill highlights that the provision will cease to exist after 15 years from the commencement of the Act.

There are divergent views regarding the Bill. There are relevant arguments on both for and against the Bill. The purpose of the Bill as stated by its proponents is that although equality of sexes is outlined in various provisions of Constitution, the truth is far away from the reality. Therefore, it is the duty of state to provide affirmative action to improve the condition of women. Based on various studies, it has been conducted that reservation in politics allows redistribution of resources for those who are marginalised. In a related study done by Ministry of Panchayati Raj in 2008, it was stated that 33% reservation for women allowed for increased self-esteem and decision-making ability of women.

United Nations presents the Human Development Report every year. In this report, Gender Inequality Index (GII) is presented. Gil measures inequality on three parameters these are health, labour market participation and empowerment. Under empowerment, share of women in Parliament of India ranks 130 in the list of HDR with 12.2% women participation. Sweden with 47% women in Parliament is the top ranked country all over the world. The reservation process will charge the demographic profile of our Parliaments.

Another reason why women should be given reservation in Parliament and State Assemblies is because the female parliamentarious and State Legislators will be more sensitive to the issues plaguing lives of women. Indian society is mostly a patriarchal society. Crime against women in the form of rape, dowry, domestic violence, systematic marginalisation, female foeticide etc are rampant across length and breadth of the country.

Therefore, to attain gender parity and reduce crimes against women, women themselves have to act as an agent of change: Aristotle said-"It is important for women to know that they have to be there (within the political process) where it matters. Whether it is at the rural council or urban council or other levels of policy making, they have to ensure that their lot is addressed." When women representation increases in the Parliament it will indirectly or directly also facilitate the following goals. It will create environment for positive social and economic policies for realisation of full potential of women.

It will lead to de-jure and de-facto enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom. It will facilitate equal access of females to health, education, employment, social security etc. It will change the societal attitude and community practices which blocks freedom and empowerment of women.

On the other side of debate, there is furious opposition against the Bill. They consider it a step backward and a move in the wrong direction. They 4 suggest that there will be pseudo representation. It has been observed at the Panchayat level that the seats which get reserved for women, the candidate getting selected is either wife or female relative of farmer male representative.

In reality, when these female candidates are elected, their male counterpart runs a puppet show. Therefore, there is no actual empowerment. Also it is argued that reservation will stifle choice for voters, leaving the meritorious candidate behind.

As a result, it will create a wider chasm and gender inequality will further perpetuate. Resortment will flow among male candidates and as a result women will be further marginalised. Political commentators are of the view that it will be against the grain of our Constitution guaranting equality irrespective of sex. It will be a form of discrimination against women. The provision may not guarantee a tickle down effect where its benefit reaches the lowest rungs of the society.

The politically, economically, socially affluent women will grab the seats thereby bringing no change and maintaining status quo. Women Reservation Bill would prove to be an issue of debate in years to come. But before the Bill get passed by the Parliament, groundwork needs to be done for real result. Otherwise it will meet fate where marginalised will remain marginalised and power will accrue in the affluent.

Thus, it is conclude that the Women's Reservation Bill will indeed be a milestone towards achieving towards our goal of a true and enlightened democracy and must be enacted at the earliest possible opportunity.

Difficult Words with Meanings :
  • Emancipate to free from bondage
  • Commencement the time when something begin
  • Divergent differing or deviating
  • Proponents a person who argues for or supports something
  • Demographic of or relating to a specific segment of a population having shared characteristics
  • Rampant violent in action or spirit
  • Parity equally, as in amount, status or character
  • De-jure by right, according to law
  • De-facto actually existing, especially when without lawful authority
  • Furious very powerful or violent
  • Pseudo not actually but having an appearance of
  • Stifle to make (something) difficult or impossible
  • Meritorious deserving honor or praise
  • Chasm a marked interruption of continuity; gap
  • Perpetuated to cause to continue indefinitely; make perpetual
  • Tickle Down refer to a situation in which something that start in the high parts of a system spread to the whole system
  • Affluent having large amount of money and owning many expensive things
  • Accrue to increase, accumulate or come about as a result of growth.
shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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