Context – The Women Reservation Bill, long pending in the Indian legislative landscape, has once again come into the limelight with the introduction of the Women Reservation Bill 2023. The bill aims to reserve 33% of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
This significant step towards gender equality in political representation has sparked intense debates and discussions across the nation. While the bill mirrors some aspects of the previously proposed legislation, it also introduces significant changes.
The struggle for political empowerment for women in India is not a new one. The demand for reservations for women in the legislature dates back to the early 1990s when the first Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
However, it has faced numerous hurdles and has been stuck in limbo for decades. The introduction of Women’s Reservation Bill 2023 is an acknowledgement of the urgency to address gender disparities in political representation.
Current Reservation Framework
- Panchayati Raj Institutions: India already has reservations for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and women in Panchayati Raj institutions.
- Legal Mandate: Article 243D of the Constitution mandates that not less than one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs should be reserved for women.
- Achievements in States: Several states have achieved over 50% women’s representation in Panchayati Raj institutions.
Required Constitutional Amendments
- Amending Article 82: To enable women’s reservation, amendments to Article 82, which deals with the adjustment of constituencies for Lok Sabha and state assemblies following each census, are necessary.
- Amending Article 170(3): Amendments to Article 170(3), which pertains to the composition of legislative assemblies, are also required.
- Prerequisites for Implementation: These amendments are prerequisites for the delimitation process and, subsequently, the implementation of women’s reservations.
Need for Women Reservation in Parliament
- Gender Equality: Gender equality is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Indian Constitution. However, the underrepresentation of women in politics is a glaring contradiction to this principle. Reserving seats for women in legislatures is a necessary step to bridge this gap and ensure equal participation in decision-making processes.
- Empowerment and Participation: Increasing women’s representation in politics empowers them and provides a platform to voice their concerns and advocate for policies that address women’s issues. It is an essential component of women’s socio-economic and political empowerment.
- Diverse Perspectives: Women bring unique perspectives and experiences to governance, which can lead to more holistic and inclusive policy making. A diverse legislature is more likely to address a wide range of issues effectively.
Challenges and Concerns
While the Women Reservation Bill 2023 is a significant step towards gender equality in politics, it is not without its challenges and concerns.
- Political Will: The passage of the bill requires strong political will and bipartisan support. Historically, the bill has faced resistance from some political parties, which raises doubts about its timely implementation.
- Tokenism: There is a concern that reserved seats for women may lead to tokenism, with women occupying positions without genuine political influence. To counter this, it is crucial to ensure that women candidates are given opportunities to contest from general seats as well.
- Intersectionality: Gender is just one aspect of identity, and women’s experiences and issues vary significantly across different communities, castes, and regions. The bill needs to consider intersectionality to ensure representation for women from marginalized backgrounds.
- Capacity Building: Enhancing the political capacity of women is essential to make the reservation policy effective. This includes providing training, support, and resources to women candidates to ensure they can perform their roles effectively.
- Political Consensus: To pass the Women Reservation Bill 2023, political parties must rise above partisan considerations and reach a consensus. The bill should be a collaborative effort, reflecting the commitment of all parties to gender equality in politics.
- Public Awareness and Advocacy: Civil society organizations, women’s groups, and activists play a crucial role in building public awareness and advocating for the bill. Public pressure and awareness can influence policymakers to prioritize the bill.
- Capacity Building: Alongside the bill’s implementation, efforts should be made to build the political capacity of women. Training programs, mentorship, and support networks can empower women candidates to excel in politics.
- Intersectional Representation: The bill should take into account intersectionality, ensuring that women from marginalized communities have adequate representation. This can be achieved through quotas within quotas to address caste, tribal, and regional disparities.
- Monitoring and Evaluation: A robust mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the impact of the bill should be established. This will help assess its effectiveness and make necessary adjustments.
- Promotion of Women in Party Leadership: Political parties should also promote women in leadership positions within the party structure. This will create a pipeline of experienced women leaders ready to take on parliamentary roles.
The introduction of the Constitution 128th Bill, 2023, marks a significant step towards empowering women in Indian politics. However, its effectiveness hinges on the timely completion of the delimitation process, and the method for identifying reserved seats remains a subject of debate. Nevertheless, this bill reflects a continued commitment to promoting gender equality in India’s democratic institutions.
- What is the history of Women reservation bill? How it was a long time due?