The giant leap towards woman empowerment that India took last month with the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam in Parliament, aimed at reserving onethird of the total seats in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women, has precedent throughout the world. Many countries have introduced gender quotas in the last few decades to increase the representation of women in politics. Strict rules have been made and reforms implemented. These steps have also started yielding results.
Today, many countries in the world are being led by women. There are 26 countries where women leaders are heads of state or Government. The first country to reserve seats in Parliament for women was Argentina, which made 30 per cent reservation mandatory for women in 1991. At present, 44.75 percent of Argentinian MPs are women,against 5.4 percent in 1991.
In India,the Women’s Reservation Bill was first introduced in Parliament as the 81st Constitutional Amendment Bill by the HD Deve Gowda Government on September 12, 1996. The Bill was tabled but could not be passed due to opposition.
Similarly, in 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2009, the right environment for its passage could not be created. A pioneering step in this direction was taken by Bihar in 2006 with the enactment of the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act which reserved 50 percent of Panchayat posts for women in all categories, including single posts. This was later followed by many other states.
After getting the approval of the President, the Women’s Reservation Bill will become law but even then it will have a long way to go. The Bill will require the approval of a majority of state legislatures.
It will be implemented after delimitation to redraw parliamentary and Assembly constituencies on the basis of the Census. The Government has said that this process will start next year. Census work is not easy. It involves collecting data related to various social and economic parameters. The Delimitation Commission will decide which seats will be given to women after the process.
Even after the Census and delimitation, the Women’s Reservation Bill will be implemented only in the Lok Sabha elections of 2029. According to Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, in the Rajya Sabha the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill 2023 will be implemented after following due procedure.
Reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies will be both horizontal and vertical, which will be applicable to SC-ST categories. Nearly half of the country’s 95 crore registered voters are women, but they constitute only 15 per cent of the Parliament and 10 per cent of the state legislatures. The 33 per cent reservation for women will not be applicable in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and state legislative councils.
During the discussion in the Lok Sabha on the Women’s Reservation Bill, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has honoured ‘Matrishakti’ by bringing the Women’s Reservation Bill. Its passage marks the beginning of a new era. Prime Minister Modi had presented the vision of womenled progress in the G20. Women’s empowerment may be a political issue for other parties, but for his party and PM Modi, it is not a political issue but a matter of belief.