On reservation for women in politics

Source: The post is based on the article “On reservation for women in politics”published in The Hindu on 16thMarch 2023.

Syllabus: GS 2 –Governance

Relevance: About Women’s Reservation Bill

News: A protest has emerged in Delhi regarding the Women’s Reservation Bill. The article discusses arguments related to the bill and the history of women’s reservation.

What has been the history of political reservation for women?

During the National Movement: The three women’s bodies sent a letter to the British Prime Minister in 1931 seeking political reservation.

Constituent Assembly:The issue of women’s reservation also came up in Constituent Assembly debates. However, it was rejected on the grounds that a democracy is expected to give representation to all groups.

73rd and 74th amendments: The Committee of the Status of Women in India, 1971 and The National Perspective Plan for Women in 1988 recommended reservation of women in the local bodies.

These recommendations paved the way for the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution which mandate all State governments to reserve one-third of the seats for women in the local bodies.

However, the issue of reservation in the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies still remained and the Women’s Reservation Bill was brought in this regard.

What is the Women’s Reservation Bill?

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The current government has promised 33% reservation for women. However, there has been no progress from the government in this regard.

What are the arguments for the Bill?

First,affirmative action is necessary for the improving the condition of women.The bill will help in the condition of women because political parties are patriarchal in nature.

Second,women as panchayat leaders have proved themselves and broken the established myths, questioning women leadership. On the other hand, crime rate against women is on the rise as well. Therefore, reservation will ensure women on decision making positions.

Third, despite the national movement, and passing of more than 7 decades after independence, women are still underrepresented in the Parliament.Only legislation can provide assurance of representation in this situation.

Note: Only about 14% of the members in Indian Parliament are women. India has a fewer percentage of women in the lower House than its neighbours such as Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

What are the arguments against the Bill?

First, reservation for women is against the idea of equality enshrined in the Constitution because if reservations are provided, women would not be competing on merit.

Second, women are not the same as a caste group, i.e., they are not a homogenous community. Therefore, the same arguments made for caste-based reservation cannot be made for women.

Third, women’s interests cannot be isolated from other social, economic and political strata.

Fourth,the reservation of seats in Parliament would restrict the choice of voters to women candidates. Therefore, the reservation should be given to political parties rather than legislative bodies.

Dual member constituencies (where constituencies will have two MPs, one of them being a woman) can also be adopted.

Fifth, men hold primary key positions in politics. Therefore, some argue that bringing women into politics could destroy the ideal family.

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