Women’s Reservation Bill gets approval (SPECIALS)
Polity & Governance
22nd Sep, 2023
Recently, the Lok Sabha has passed Women’s Reservation Bill (Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam) during the Special session of Parliament.
- The Bill was the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, being passed with 454 members voting in favour and two against it.
- The Women’s Reservation Bill’s (the 81st Constitution Amendment Bill) tumultuous legislative history started 27 years ago, in September 1996, when it was tabled in Parliament by the H. D. Deve Gowda-led administration.
- Later on the Bill was again introduced as the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008.
- But it was never passed by both the houses of the Parliament till now.
Countries with women’s quotas in Parliament:
- Women’s representation in government is low not just in India, but globally. A quota in government has been approved in 107 nations, including Australia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and Sweden.
- Rwanda, Cuba, Mexico, New Zealand, and the UAE have the greatest female participation rates in their lower houses, with 50 per cent or more. However, women account for less than 33 per cent of the population in 134 of 185 countries. In addition, 91 countries have less than 25 per cent female involvement. India has approximately 15 per cent.
- As of June 2023, India ranked 148th out of 193 countries in terms of the percentage of elected women representatives in national legislatures.
- Whereas the global average for “lower chamber or unicameral” is 25.8 per cent, India sits at 14.4 per cent, with 78 out of 543 Lok Sabha representatives elected in 2019 being women, the greatest number to date.
- The Indian parliament is bicameral, with female MPs constituting 11.6 per cent of the upper house, or Rajya Sabha.
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, formally known as The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill 2023, aims to reserve 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament and legislative Assemblies.
- The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to introduce three new articles and one new clause in the Constitution.
- New clause in 239AA: Seats shall be reserved for women in the Delhi Legislative Assembly, 1/3rd of the seats reserved for SCs shall be reserved for women, 1/3rd of total number of seats to be filled by direct elections shall be reserved for women through law determined by parliament
- New Article - 330A: Reservation for women in Lok Sabha - 1/3rd of seats reserved for SCs and STs shall be reserved for women, 1/3rd of total seats to be filled by direct elections to the Lok Sabha shall be reserved for women
- New Article - 332A: Reserved seats for women in every state Legislative Assembly, 1/3rd of seats reserved for SCs and STs shall be reserved for women, 1/3rd of total seats to be filled by direct elections to the LA shall be reserved for women
- New article - 334A: Reservation shall come into effect after the delimitation is undertaken after the relevant figures for the first census have been published. Rotation of seats for women shall take effect after each subsequent exercise of delimitation.
What is the status of Women’s Reservations in India?
- Gujarat – In its 182-member parliament, just 8% of the candidates were women.
- Himachal Pradesh – Where women make up one in every two voters, 67 males have been elected and only one woman.
- National average – The proportion of women in state legislatures nationwide is still at 8%.
- Rankings – 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.
What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation is the process through which boundaries of parliamentary or Assembly constituencies are drawn.
- As per the Constitution, the number of seats allocated to each state in the Lower House of Parliament is dependent on its population. Hence, the populous state of Uttar Pradesh sends more representatives to Lok Sabha than any other state.
- However, the Constitution calls for the reallocation of seats after every Census. In fact, the last such exercise was carried out after the 1971 Census and according to the Constitution 84th Amendment) Act, 2002 there is a freeze on readjustment of constituencies till the first Census after 2026.
- If the Centre wishes to redraw the constituencies sooner, Article 82 will have to be amended – a move that the southern states are against.
Arguments against the Bill:
- Reservation of seats in Parliament restricts choice of voters to women candidates. Therefore, some experts have suggested alternate methods such as reservation in political parties and dual member constituencies.
- Rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may reduce the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from that constituency.
- The report examining the 1996 women’s reservation Bill recommended that reservation be provided for women of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) once the Constitution was amended to allow for reservation for OBCs.
- It also recommended that reservation be extended to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils. Neither of these recommendations has been incorporated in the Bill.
- The reservation will act as an Affirmative action which is needed to help women: Recent Panchayats research suggests that reservation empowers women and allocates resources.
India has a sizable female population, which represents a large reservoir of potential that, if unlocked, may propel the nation forward. The inclusions of women will kick-start democracy by giving the vast majority of people a voice in how their lives should be run.