From the Viewsroom

Sonia’s smart move

Preeti Mehra | Updated on January 10, 2018

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It’s time the PM took up the Women’s Reservation Bill

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was smart to ask the PM to take up the Women’s Reservation Bill and use his party’s majority to get it approved in the Lok Sabha. Pending since March 9, 2010, after it was passed in the Rajya Sabha but lacking support in the lower house, this is undoubtedly unfinished business. It has failed to pass muster in 2008 as well. The request makes perfect sense because the BJP has always supported the legislation and now has the advantage of a majority in the Lok Sabha.

The 108th Constitution Amendment Bill will be historic as it aims to reserve 33 per cent of the seats in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies for women. It also stipulates that one-third of the seats already reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes be reserved for women from those categories.

Critics offer several arguments against the Bill including the fact that it is against the principles of equality and that a quota for women would be used by their patriarchal families to gain power, but these clearly do not cut ice. If you look at the impact of the one-third quota that was legislated for women in the panchayats in 1993, it is obvious that after a time a majority of women leaders seize the opportunity and begin to make a difference on the ground.

After the Bill is passed, Parliament is likely to see more gender-nuanced opinion-making and egalitarian legislations being pushed through. Why should India be left behind in women’s participation in legislatures when it considers itself at par with forward-looking nations? While the Sweden government has 44 per cent women in its cabinet, Britain has 30 per cent, China 24 and even Pakistan has 21 per cent; India has only 12 per cent women MPs according to 2016 World Bank data. These statistics alone should make the PM sit up and consider getting the Bill approved in the Lok Sabha this coming winter session.

Associate Editor

Published on September 24, 2017

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