Recently, a political party has raised the demand of bringing the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill to Parliament, ahead of the monsoon session.
Timeline of Women Reservation Bill:
- The original idea for this bill originated from a constitutional amendment which was passed back in 1993.
- In 1994, the 73rd and the 74th constitutional amendment act was ratified to the Indian Constitution, granting women 1/3 reservation in rural and urban democratic bodies.
- The Women’s Reservation Bill was initially introduced in the parliament on September 12, 1996. The bill was introduced in Lok Sabha by the United Front government of HD Deve Gowda.
- The main aim of this bill is to reserve 33 percent seats in Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies for women.
- Reservation Criteria- As per the bill, the seats will be reserved on a rotational basis. The seats would be determined by a draw of lots in such a way that a seat would only be reserved once in every three consecutive general elections.
- Again in 1998, NDA-I introduced the bill without any success. Thereafter, the Bill lapsed and was reintroduced – in 1999, in 2002 and 2003.
- UPA-I government, led by Congress, again introduced the bill to reserve seats for women in Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies in May 2008.
- After its reintroduction, the bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, but was still left pending in Lok Sabha.
- A few regional parties like and RJD Samajwadi Party (SP) has been one of the vocal opponents for the Women’s Reservation Bill.
Women’s Reservation Bill [The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008]
Highlights of the Bill
- The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
- One third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies.
- Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
- Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
Key Issues and Analysis
- There are divergent views on the reservation policy. Proponents stress the necessity of affirmative action to improve the condition of women. Some recent studies on panchayats have shown the positive effect of reservation on empowerment of women and on allocation of resources.
- Opponents argue that it would perpetuate the unequal status of women since they would not be perceived to be competing on merit. They also contend that this policy diverts attention from the larger issues of electoral reform such as criminalisation of politics and inner party democracy.
- Reservation of seats in Parliament restricts choice of voters to women candidates. Therefore, some experts have suggested alternate methods such as reservation in political parties and dual member constituencies.
- Rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may reduce the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from that constituency.
- The report examining the 1996 women’s reservation Bill recommended that reservation be provided for women of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) once the Constitution was amended to allow for reservation for OBCs. It also recommended that reservation be extended to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils. Neither of these recommendations has been incorporated in the Bill.
The Constitution of India not only grants equality to women but also empowers the State to adopt measures of positive discrimination in favour of women for neutralizing the cumulative socio economic, education and political disadvantages faced by them.
- Equality before law for women (Article 14)
- The State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them (Article 15 )
- The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children (Article 15 (3))
- Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State (Article 16).
- The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood (Article 39(a)); and equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article39(d))
- To promote justice, on a basis of equal opportunity and to provide free legal aid by suitable legislation or scheme or in any other way to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities (Article 39 A)
- The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42)
- The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation (Article 46)
- The State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people (Article 47)
- To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women (Article 51(A) (e))
- Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Panchayat to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Panchayat (Article 243 D(3))
- Not less than one- third of the total number of offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at each level to be reserved for women (Article 243 D (4))
- Not less than one-third (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes) of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election in every Municipality to be reserved for women and such seats to be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in a Municipality (Article 243 T (3))
- Reservation of offices of Chairpersons in Municipalities for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and women in such manner as the legislature of a State may by law provide (Article 243 T (4)).
- Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme– It was launched in January, 2015. The scheme is aimed at promoting gender equality and the significance of educating girls.
- It targets to improve the Child Sex Ratio through multi sectoral interventions including prevention of gender biased sex selection and promoting girls’ education and her holistic empowerment.
- It is a tri-ministerial effort of Ministries of Women and Child Development, Health & Family Welfare and Human Resource Development.
- One Stop Centre Scheme– Under the scheme, One Stop Centres are being established across the country to provide integrated support and assistance under one roof to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces in phased manner.
- Women Helpline Scheme-
- UJJAWALA : A Comprehensive Scheme for Prevention of trafficking and Rescue, Rehabilitation and Re-integration of Victims of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation
- Working Women Hostel
- SWADHAR Greh (A Scheme for Women in Difficult Circumstances)
- Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP)- The Support to Training and Employment Programme (STEP) for Women Scheme aims to provide skills that give employability to women enabling them to become self-employed/entrepreneurs.
- The Scheme is intended to benefit women who are in the age group of 16 years and above across the country.
- Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) have played a significant role in bringing women representatives at grass-root level. Many States have granted 50% reservation for women candidates in elections.
- Fundamental reforms at the party level will serve as a necessary and strategic compliment to the Women’s Reservation Bill. Even if the bill is derailed further, it should not stop political parties from making internal structures more conducive to women entering politics.
- Here, it is important to underline and differentiate the Indian perspective on quotas from that of the West. Unlike the West, where quotas are almost a bad word, the Indian paradigm has seen such quotas emerge as invaluable tools for social leverage.
- They are redistributive tools meant to ameliorate centuries of continued oppression.
- Even once women are on the same table as men in politics, they may continue to face the challenges mentioned. There is a need to bring about institutional, social and behavioral change among India’s populace. Gender equality is a part of Sustainable Development Goals as well.
Source: The Hindu
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