A brief period of solidarity was witnessed in Parliament on International Women’s Day with MPs from all parties making a strong pitch for early passage of a Bill to provide 33 per cent reservation to women in Parliament and State Assemblies.

The Women’s Reservation Bill (The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill), 2008 was passed in the Rajya Sabha and kept alive unlike the previous similar bills that lapsed when the tenure of the relevant Lok Sabhas came to an end. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010 and is pending passage in the Lok Sabha.

But under the BJP, the Women’s Reservation Bill has not been brought for passage again in the Lower House. The Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. With 65 MPs, women constitute just about 12 per cent of the total strength of the 16th Lok Sabha.


The debate in the Upper House, which has kept the Bill alive, bordered on partisan lines only when Rajni Patil of the Congress pointed out that despite a majority in Lok Sabha, the BJP is not passing the Women’s Reservation Bill. The All India Mahila Congress, in the meantime, launched a #womenfor33% initiative inviting women from all walks of life to write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to urge him to push the Bill.

But barring Patil, most MPs followed House Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu’s lead by speaking collectively against various issues concerning women and pressing for better representation in legislative bodies.

As soon as the House assembled to take up business, Naidu made a strong pitch for a level-playing field for women and ending gender bias. “With women constituting about 50 per cent of our population, social, economic and political empowerment of women, including providing reservation in Parliament and State legislatures, has to be accorded top priority, for the country to achieve rapid progress,” he said.

After Naidu’s remarks, women MPs from different parties spoke on the issue and pressed for early passage of the legislation. External Affair Minister Sushma Swaraj said she had been its votary and even today fully supports the pending legislation. Highlighting the achievements of Indian women in diverse fields, she said it is also a fact that women are being subjected to injustice, which is a matter of shame.

“We need to take a pledge today on the occasion of International Women’s Day that we will not tolerate any injustice and pain to women,” Swaraj said, and called for a mass movement to change the mindset of people towards women.

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad expressed concern over rising incidents of sexual assault against the girl child. “The government, together with the Opposition, should create an atmosphere to ensure the safety of women,” he said, and agreed with others on the early passage of the women’s quota Bill.

Initiating the discussion, veteran Congress MP Ambika Soni rued that the women’s Bill passed in the Upper House is still languishing, and demanded that the Upper House pass a resolution that it is committed to the legislation.

As members in the Upper House sought an early passage of the Bill, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan extended greetings to the people on the occasion and exhorted women to move forward with renewed vigour and confidence.

But as soon as this debate was over in the Rajya Sabha, members of some Opposition parties, the TDP and others, trooped into the well, carrying placards and raising slogans protesting over various issues such as the banking scam and the Cauvery river water dispute.

This provoked Naidu to make some angry remarks, which could not be heard in the din, and then adjourning the House till 2 pm.