Women Reservation Bill-Explained Pointwise

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Women Reservation Bill has been tabled in the Lok Sabha as Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023. Women Reservation Bill/Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.

Key Provisions of Women Reservation Bill 2023/Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023

Reservation for women- The Bill reserves one-third of all seats for women in Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Additionally, this reservation will also extend to the seats reserved for SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.

Commencement of reservation- The reservation will be effective once the census conducted after the commencement of this Bill has been published. Based on the census, delimitation will be undertaken to reserve seats for women.

Period of Reservation- The reservation will be provided for a period of 15 years. However, it shall continue till such date as determined by a law made by Parliament.

Rotation of seats- Seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation, as determined by a law made by Parliament.

What is the Historical Background of Women’s Reservation Bill/Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023 ?

Political reservation of woman has been a long standing demand since the pre-independence period.Various committees have favoured political reservation of women.

Political Reservation of women- A brief journey

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

Constituent Assembly- The issue of women 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.

The Committee of the Status of Women in India 1971 and The National Perspective Plan for Women in 1988– Both these committees 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.

Historical Background of Women’s Reservation Bill
1996The Women Reservation Bill was first introduced in 1996 as 81st Constitutional Amendment Bill by Deve Gowda Govt. The bill was referred to the select committee of parliament headed by Geeta Mukherjee. However the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha as no consensus could be formed over reservation for OBC women.
1999The Bill was reintroduced by the NDA government in the 13th Lok Sabha and was subsequently introduced twice in the year 2003.However the bills could not be passed and hence they lapsed.
2004The UPA government included reservation bill in its Common Minimum Programme and tabled it in Rajya Sabha to prevent it from lapsing again.
2010 Women’s Reservation Bill introduced as 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2008 was passed in the Rajya Sabha and lapsed in the Lok Sabha. RJD, the JD(U) and the SP were its most vocal opponents. They demanded 33% reservation for backward groups within the 33% quota for women.

Read More- Provisions of the Women Reservation Bill 2008

What are the arguments in favour of the Bill?

Increase in the political representation of women- According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) ‘Women in Parliament’ Report (2021), India ranks lower than 140 other nations in terms of the number of women serving in their national legislatures. Even though the representation of women in Lok Sabha has increased post independence (~16% in 17th lok Sabha), India is behind a number of countries of Africa and South Asia.(Nepal,Pakistan,Sri Lanka).

Women Reservation Bill/Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam
Source-Forum IAS

Ability of Women leadership in Bringing Change- A 2003 study about the effect of reservation for women in panchayats showed that women elected under the reservation policy invest more in the public goods closely linked to women’s concerns. Ex-Woman Sarpanch of Dhani Mayan Khan GP in Haryana built a training centre for women and ensured that every village child went to school.

Step towards Decriminalisation of Politics- Reserved seats for women would help in decriminalisation of Indian Poliltics. In the present Lok Sabha 159 MPs have declared serious criminal cases against them including those of rape, murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, crimes against women.

Addressing Crime Against Women- Women Reservation Bill help in addressing crime against women in the society. Rape cases and domestic abuse cases will decrease with increased representation of women.

Increasing the number of seats commensurately with Vote share- Though women’s vote share has increased, the number of women in positions of politics has not increased commensurately. Women In India vote at par with men but their representation is very low as compared to men. Reserved seats will bring some parity between the vote share of women and their representation in the parliament/assemblies.

Breaking the patriarchal Mould of Indian Politics- Indian Politics has been patriarchal with top party positions and positions of power have been occupied by male. Women reservation bill will dismantle this patriarchal nature of Indian politics by increasing women representation in the top posts of Political Parties.

Changing Stereotypes- Increase in women politicians will help in changing the stereotyped image of women as only homemakers’ and there will be gradual acceptance of ‘women as lawmakers.’ 

Improvement of Economic Performance and Infrastructure- According to UN University, Women legislators improve the economic performance of their constituencies 1.8 per cent more than male legislatures. Evaluation of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana shows the share of incomplete road projects is 22 percentage points lower in female led constituencies.

Learning from International Experience- Rawanda has 61% women parliamentarians who have been doing commendable work in healing wounds from Rwandan Genocide. Mandating a fixed percentage of female representation leads to increase in the overall representation of women. Rawanda has provided only 30% reservation but their women parliamentarians have reached 61% in 2018.

What are the arguments against the Bill?

No separate OBC reservation- The Bill provides separate reservation to Scheduled castes and Scheduled Tribes women within the existing quota of one third reservation of seats. However OBC women which constitute 60% of women population have not been provided separate reservation within the quota.

No reservation in the Rajya Sabha and legislative Councils- The Bill does not provide reservation to women in the Rajya Sabha and the legislative Councils.

Enactment of the Bill- Reservation for women in Parliament depends on the census and
delimitation process. However, the census has been delayed and delimitation could be politically sensitive,especially impacting southern India, which has seen slower population growth due to its development progress.

Use of Women as proxies- Panchayats have witnessed the evolution of ‘Panchayat Patis’ who use their wives as proxy candidates for reserved seats. They wield the real power.There are fears that we might witness the evolution of ‘MP and MLA Patis’ with extension of reservation to women in Parliament.

Against the Principles of Equality enshrined in the constitution- Opponents of women reservation argue that the idea runs counter to the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution. The bill can perpetuate the unequal status of women since they would not be perceived to be competing on merit.

Women not homogeneous group like caste groups- Women are not a homogenous community unlike a caste group. As a result, the same arguments used to justify caste-based reservations cannot be used to justify reservations for women. Women’s interests cannot be isolated from other social, economic and political strata.

Restriction of Choice of Voters- Reservation of seats for women would restrict the choice of voters. Opponents of the Bill have suggested alternate methods like reservation for women in political parties and dual member constituencies (where constituencies will have two MPs with one of them being a woman).

What should be the way forward?

In addition to Women’s reservation Bill India needs to implement the following reforms for political empowerment of women-

Address the larger issues of electoral reforms such as measures to check criminalisation of politics and influence of black money to achieve the desired results of women reservation.

Institutionalisation of Intra party democracy for wider pool of women candidates.

Every Political Party must nominate 33% women and 67% men for every election to Rajya Sabha and State legislative councils to achieve true women representation.

Promotion of women participation at panchayat level through strengthening women self-help groups. This will ensure able women candidates for MP/MLA elections.

Strengthening women’s agencies and organizations for building a progressive society with equality of opportunities among all citizens.

Promotion of girl’s participation in College/Universities student political parties and political debate to increase their political prowess for future.

Read More- PRS

Women Reservation Bill Indian Express

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