“A Women of today is the most efficient Asset of Tomorrow”
In a revolutionary step towards gender equality, The President of India gave her assent to the Women Reservation Bill, on September 29, 2023, described as the “Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam” by the Prime Minister.
The Women’s Reservation Bill’s history trace back to 1996 when it was initially introduced as the 81st Amendment Bill, proposing a 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. Despite being referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee, it lapsed due to the Lok Sabha’s dissolution.
Subsequent attempts to secure reserved seats for women post-1996 include:
1998: The bill was tabled four times in the 12th Lok Sabha, in 1999, 2002, and 2003, but faced repeated failure due to insufficient support.
2009: Amid widespread protests, the government reintroduced the bill in the Rajya Sabha, where it passed in 2010. However, it never made it to the Lok Sabha and lapsed in the process of dissolution of the House.
2014: The bill was again revived but no fruitful results were attained.
2023: The bill was reintroduced before both the houses of the Parliament wherein it was passed by near-unanimous support in the Lok Sabha, facing just two opposing votes, and unanimously by the Rajya Sabha. The said bill shall come into force through the 108th Constitutional Amendment.
The main objective of the reservation bill is to reserve 33% of seats in both the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for Women. Several crucial provisions that have been introduced by the Reservation Bill has been incorporated in the Constitution of India, as:
- This amendment grants women reserved seats in State and Union territories’ legislative assemblies and the Lok Sabha on a rotational basis.
- It mandates a 33% reservation for women in State Legislative Assemblies and Union territories. Additionally, it allocates reservations within SC and ST quotas and reserves one-third of seats filled through direct elections in Legislative Assemblies for women.
- Clause 2(b) is added to apply parliamentary laws to the National Capital Territory of Delhi, thus reserving seats for women in Delhi.
- The reservation is provided for 15 years, subject to Parliament’s discretion, beginning after the census and subsequent delimitation.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RESERVATION BILL:
The Women’s Reservation Bill holds immense significance:
- By promoting gender diversity in decision-making, it enhances governance, taking into account diverse perspectives and experiences.
- Empowering women politically fosters social and economic development, leading to gender-sensitive policies, improved access to education and healthcare, and greater economic opportunities.
- The bill encourages women’s political engagement, motivating them to enter politics, contest elections, and hold public office.
- It promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment by ensuring their adequate political representation, recognizing their significant population share.
- Implementation aligns with India’s commitment to international agreements advocating gender equality and women’s empowerment.
- India’s step towards gender parity can positively influence global gender representation, given the low representation of women in parliamentary and local government positions worldwide.
- The bill adheres to constitutional principles and considers representation across caste groups.
- Gender Quota: Without a gender quota, women’s representation remains marginal, impacting Indian democracy.
- Panchayat Reservations: Extending the reservation further empowers women and optimizes resource allocation.
- Vote Share: Increased women’s votes haven’t translated to power; the bill empowers women to participate in crucial legislative decisions.
The 2023 Women Reservation Bill in India signifies a momentous step towards achieving gender equality in Indian politics, fulfilling a long-held aspiration, and paving the path for a more inclusive, equitable, and empowered future. By providing women the opportunity to have their voices heard within legislative bodies, India is setting a powerful global example, working diligently towards a more balanced and just society, aligning with Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 5.5, which strives to ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership across all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life.