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Women’s Reservation Bill

  • Published
    16th Mar, 2023

Recently, K. Kavitha who is accused in the Delhi excise case has launched a six-hour hunger strike seeking early passage of the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill in New Delhi.

Women and Political reservation in India:

  • The issue of reservation for women in politics can be traced back to the Indian national movement. 
  • The National Perspective Plan for Women recommended in 1988 that reservation be provided to women's rights from the level of the Panchayat to that of Parliament. 
  • These recommendations paved the way for the historic enactment of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution which mandates:
    • All State governments to reserve one-third of the seats for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and 
    • One-third of the offices of the chairperson at all levels of the Panchayati Raj Institutions, and in urban local bodies.

Highlights of the Bill:

  • The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.  
  • The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
  • One-third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies.
  • Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
  • Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.

Need for such legislation:

  • Only about 14% of the members in the Indian Parliament are women, the highest so far. 
  • According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, India has a fewer percentage of women in the lower House than its neighbours such as Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.


  • The report examining the 1996 women’s reservation Bill recommended that reservations 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 into the Bill.
  • Opponents also contend that this policy diverts attention from the larger issues of electoral reform such as the criminalisation of politics and inner-party democracy.

Analysis of the bill:

  • There are divergent views on the reservation policy. Proponents stress the necessity of affirmative action to improve the condition of women. 
  • Some recent studies on Panchayats have shown the positive effect of reservation on the empowerment of women and on the allocation of resources.
  • Opponents argue that it would perpetuate the unequal status of women since they would not be perceived to be competing on merit. 
  • The reservation of seats in Parliament restricts the 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.

What hinders the inclusion of women in politics?

There are several factors responsible for the poor representation of women in Indian politics such as:

  • gender stereotypes
  • lack of political network
  • financial strains
  • unavailability of resources
  • lack of political education among women in the country

ECI on women’s representation in Politics:

  • As per the report of the Election Commission of India, women represent 10.5 per cent of the total members of the Parliament.
  • The plight of women in the state assemblies is even worse, where they nearly account for 9 per cent of the leaders.
  • Women’s representation in the Lok Sabha has not even grown by 10 per cent in the last 75 years of independence.
  • Women workers abound in India’s main political parties, but they are often marginalised and refused a party ticket to run in elections. 
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