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Reservation for Women in Politics

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

A political party recently called for the long-delayed Women’s Reservation Bill to be introduced in Parliament.

  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill on 9 March 2010. However, the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill. The bill lapsed since it was still pending in Lok Sabha.

Reservation for Women in Politics in India

  • The issue of reservation for women in politics can be traced back to the Indian national movement. In 1931, in their letter to the British Prime Minister, submitting the official memorandum jointly issued on the status of women in the new Constitution by three women’s bodies, leaders Begum Shah Nawaz and Sarojini Naidu.
  • 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 mandate 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, respectively. Of these seats, one-third are reserved for Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe women.
    • Many States such as Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Kerala have made legal provisions to ensure 50% reservation for women in local bodies.

Women’s Representation Bill

  • About the Bill:
    • The Women’s Reservation Bill proposes to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies for women.
    • 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:
    • According to Global Gender Gap Report 2022, India ranks 48th out of 146 in the Political Empowerment (Percentage of Women in Parliament and in Ministerial Positions) dimension.
      • Notwithstanding its rank, its score is quite low at 0.267. Some of the best-ranking countries in this category score much better. For instance, Iceland is ranked 1 with a score of 0.874 and Bangladesh is ranked 9 with a score of 0.546.
    • Women’s right to self-representation and self-determination;
    • The various surveys do indicate that women representatives from Panchayati Raj have worked commendably in the development and overall well-being of society in villages and many of them would definitely want to work on a larger scale, however, they face various challenges in the political structure prevalent in India.
  • Arguments Against the Bill:
    • Women are not a homogeneous community say like, a caste group. Therefore, the same arguments made for caste-based reservations cannot be made for women.
    • Reserving seats for women is opposed by some who claim that doing so violates the Constitution’s guarantee of equality. If there is a reserve, they claim, women won’t be competing on merit, which could decrease their status in society.
  • Arguments in Favour of the Bill:
    • Affirmative action is necessary to better the condition of women, as political parties are inherently patriarchal.
    • Women are still under-represented in Parliament, and reservations will ensure that women form a strong lobby to fight for issues that are often ignored.
    • More women in decision-making positions are needed to address the high percentage of crimes against women, low participation of women in the workforce, low nutrition levels, and skewed sex ratio.

Women’s Representation in Politics in India

  • Prior to Independence:
    • Patriarchal social norms and mindsets have historically allowed women to be marginalized and exploited in India.
    • Beginning of social reforms and involvement in the struggle for freedom: The Indian freedom movement, which began with the swadeshi in Bengal (1905-08), also saw the impressive participation of women, who organized political protests, mobilized resources, and held leadership positions in those movements.
  • Post Independence:
    • India’s Constitution stipulated that all political, social, and economic spheres would treat men and women equally.
    • At present, only about 14.4% of the members of 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.
    • As per the latest Election Commission of India (ECI) data as of October 2021, Women represent 10.5% of the total members of the Parliament.
    • The scenario for women Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) across all state assemblies in India is even worse, with the national average being a pitiable 9%. In the last 75 years of independence, women’s representation in Lok Sabha has not even increased by 10%.

Women’s Political Participation in India

  • Women as Voters:
    • Almost as many women as men cast ballots in the most recent Lok Sabha election in 2019, marking a turning point in India’s journey towards gender equality in politics and what has been dubbed a “quiet revolution of self-empowerment.” There are many reasons for the growing participation, notably during the 1990s.
  • Women as Candidates:
    • Generally, the proportion of female candidates in parliamentary elections has increased over time but has remained low when compared to male candidates. Less than 9% of the 8,049 candidates running in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections were female.

Women’s Representation in Politics

  • Women’s representation in politics in India has been a topic of discussion for several years, and although progress has been made, there is still a long way to go. Here are some ways forward to improve women’s representation in politics in India:
    • Reservation of Seats: The reservation of seats for women in local bodies and legislative assemblies has been a successful way to increase women’s representation in politics. More such reservation policies could be implemented to provide women with more opportunities to participate in decision-making processes.
    • Increasing Awareness and Education: Creating awareness among women about their rights and the importance of their participation in politics is essential. Educational programs and awareness campaigns can help to increase women’s political participation.
    • Addressing Gender-based Violence and Harassment: Gender-based violence and harassment are major obstacles to women’s participation in politics. Addressing these issues through policy and legal measures can create a safer and more supportive environment for women in politics.
    • Reforms in the Electoral Process: Reforms such as introducing proportional representation and preferential voting systems can help to increase women’s representation in politics by ensuring that more women get elected.
  • These are only a few approaches to increasing the number of women in Indian politics. To effect long-lasting change, a multifaceted strategy addressing multiple challenges is required.

Resource: The Hindu

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Bharathi Pradeep
Bharathi Pradeep
Editor at Bharathi covers topics on Competitive exams, How To guides, Current exams, Current Affairs, Study Materials, etc. Follow her on social media using the links below.

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