The Women Reservation Bill 2023: A Path to Gender Equality in Indian PoliticsPosted at 25-September-2023 / Written by Ayushi Rajput
10-sec summaryThe Women Reservation Bill 2023, recently passed in the Lok Sabha, aims to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Parliament and state legislative assemblies. It's been a long journey with numerous failed attempts spanning over two decades. But what's next? How will it impact Indian democracy? And what are the challenges ahead? This blog delves into the significance, potential impact, critiques, and controversies surrounding the bill, concluding with an opinion on its prospects.
“Democracy is not truly representative until every voice, regardless of gender, is heard in the chambers of power.”
Key Provisions and Significance
- 1.According to the Constitution 108th Women Reservation Bill, 2008, women should be given a third (33%) of the seats in state legislative assemblies and the Parliament. Within the 33% quota, the law suggests sub-reservation for SCs, STs, and Anglo-Indians.
- 2.The bill proposes reserving one-third of women's seats in legislative bodies at the central and state levels. This move is significant as it addresses the stark underrepresentation of women in Indian politics. It can lead to more inclusive policies, better decision-making, and a stronger democracy.
- 3.According to the approved law, the seats designated for women will be eliminated 15 years from the amendment act’s start date.
- 4.The Women Reservation Bill, 2023, or the ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam,’ was passed with a whopping majority in the Lok Sabha on September 20.
- 5.This is the seventh attempt since 1996 to pass the women's reservation bill.
Gender Parity in Politics
- 1.Encouraging Women's Participation: The Women's Reservation Bill can catalyze more women to participate actively in politics. When women see a path to leadership, they are more likely to engage in public service. Providing role models and representation can inspire a new generation of female leaders.
- 2.Status of Women's Reservations in India:: The current status of women's reservations in India is far from ideal. In states like Gujarat, just 8% of candidates were women in its 182-member parliament. Himachal Pradesh, where women make up one in every two voters, has only one woman among 67 elected males. The national average for women's representation in state legislatures nationwide remains at a mere 8%. According to a survey by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India is ranked 144th out of 193 nations in terms of the representation of women in parliament, highlighting the urgent need for change.
Critiques and Controversies
- 1.Opponents' Perspective: Opponents argue that immediate implementation of the bill, as demanded by several political parties, including senior Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, is impossible, according to the BJP. They contend this reservation policy does not promote merit-based competition and could prolong women's inequality. Critics also suggest the bill may not address the root causes of gender inequality in politics.
- 2.Proponents' Perspective: Proponents, on the other hand, argue that affirmative action is necessary to empower women and allocate resources more equitably, as recent research on Panchayats suggests. They believe the bill is essential to create a more inclusive political landscape. Additionally, there is an ongoing debate about how the reservation of Parliament seats limits voter choice to women, prompting some analysts to recommend alternatives such as political party reservations and dual-member seats to address this concern.
- 1.Obstacles to Effective Implementation: Implementing the Women's Reservation Bill effectively poses challenges. It requires a fresh census and delimitation exercise to avoid a legal challenge, which could delay its execution. The report also quoted Union Home Minister Amit Shah explaining that the government could be accused of partisanship if a seat was reserved for women without any criteria determined through a delimitation exercise. Notably, the last census data is from 2011, and the previous delimitation was done before. The 2021 census was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 2.Challenges to Passing the Bill: One of the main obstacles to passing the Women's Reservation Bill is the current electoral system, which employs the single transferable vote technique. This system allocates votes to favored candidates, making it difficult to reserve seats for certain groups, including women. Additionally, there are currently no reservations for SCs and STs in the Rajya Sabha, and any move to add them would require a constitutional change to the voting process.
Why did the Parliament Fail to Pass the WRB?
The Way Forward
- 1.Unlocking the Potential of the Female Population: India's large female population represents the untapped potential that, if given political representation, can propel the nation forward.
- 2.Kick-starting Democracy: Including women in politics will kick-start democracy by giving the vast majority of people a voice in how their lives should be run.
- 3.Overcoming Obstacles: The current electoral system, employing the single transferable vote technique, poses a challenge to implementing the Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha. Addressing this hurdle and considering the inclusion of SCs and STs is essential.