Today Rajya Sabha passed Women’s Reservation Bill by an overwhelming majority to reserve one-third of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies for women. The Bill seeks to reserve for women 181 of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha and 1,370 out of a total of 4,109 seats in the 28 State Assemblies. This reservation shall apply in case of seats reserved for scheduled castes (SCs) and scheduled tribes (STs) as well. The implementatation of this bill will increase the participation of women in politics and society and ultimately create equal opportunities for men and women. It will also give importance to the status of women in Indian society.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the occasion as a “momentous” and the legislation as a “historic and great” step in the empowerment of women. He also said that Indian women have faced “enormous difficulties” in terms of benefits of economic and social development, and the passing of this “historical and path-breaking legislation” will prove a “giant step forward” for their empowerment and emancipation. Let’s try to understand more about this bill.
The aim of this bill is to reserve 33.3 percent seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women. It was drafted first by the H D Deve Gowda-led United Front government. The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996. Though it has been introduced in Parliament several times since then, the Bill could not be passed because of lack of political consensus. Some of the political parties like RJD, SP, BSP etc have always opposed this bill because they fear many of their male leaders would not get a chance to fight elections if 33.3 percent seats are reserved for women.
The Bill has also been opposed by politicians from the socially and economically backward classes. They argue that reservation would only help women of the elitist groups and rich classes to gain seats in parliament and legislative assemblies and it will ultimately lead to more discrimination and under-representation to the poor and backward classes of society.