Today, 18th of July, 2016, is the day the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament commences. On this day, we at CSR, along with many other women’s rights activists are gathering around the Parliament and Jantar Mantar, to protest for the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill, and to increase the proposed reservation for women to 50%.
The history of women’s reservation began in the 1980s with the Karnataka Zilla Parishads, Taluk Panchayat Samitis, Mandal Panchayats and Nyaya Panchayats Act, 1983, reserving 25% seats for women, making it the first state to do so. At that time, many seats went vacant due to less number of candidates. In 1987, roughly three women contested for one seat when the elections were held in 1987. Orissa implemented 33% reservation much before the 73rd Constitutional Amendment. It also decided that if a sarpanch (elected or nominated) was a man, then his deputy will be a woman.
The 64th and 65th constitutional amendments that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi introduced in Parliament on May 15, 1989, reserved 30% seats for women. But the Bills were defeated in the Rajya Sabha. Finally, the Narasimha Rao government passed the Bill. In the 72nd and 73rd constitutional amendments introduced in September 1991 (which became the 73rd and 74th in 1992), the reservation did not go up further; it remained at 33%. In 1993, it became part of the Constitution. Thanks to the amendments, women joined politics in large numbers, changing the scope of political debate and ideas like gender-budgeting were popularised.
Bihar took a step forward in 2009 by reserving 50% seats for women in local governments. Seventeen other states followed. But attempts to introduce 33% reservation for women in Parliament have failed. In 1996, the 81st constitutional amendment Bill for 33% seats for women in Parliament was introduced in the Lok Sabha. It was reintroduced in 1998 as the 84th amendment and again in 1999. In 2003, the Bill failed to clear the House twice. Finally, in 2010 it was passed in the Rajya Sabha but as of 2016, it is still pending in the Lok Sabha.
Women in politics is the need of the hour, in every society. Considering that women form almost half the population, it is necessary for them to be in policy making positions. It is high time that the Women’s Reservation Bill is passed in the Lok Sabha. Our director Dr Ranjana Kumari, in conversation with India Today, recently said “”An affirmative action in the form of reservation of seats for women in the State Legislature and Parliament is imperative”.
Only when this Constitutional Amendment takes place, and 50% of seats are reserved for women, will more women come into positions of power and take decisions keeping women’s issues in mind. Problems of prenatal sex selection, sexual harassment, dowry deaths and cyber crimes, can only be curbed when more women are in political posts.
Let us join hands and make sure that the Lok Sabha passes this Bill this Monsoon session!
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