Women Reservation Bill in India -2023
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Women Reservation Bill in India -2023

Recently, the Lok Sabha (LS) and Rajya Sabha (RS) successfully passed the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, also known as the 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2023. This landmark legislation entails the reservation of one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha, State legislative assemblies, and the Delhi assembly. It’s noteworthy that this provision extends to the seats earmarked for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Lok Sabha and State Legislatures as well.

What is the importance of the Women's Reservation Bill?

The discussion surrounding the Women Reservation Bill has been ongoing since the tenure of Former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996. During that time, the government lacked a majority, which prevented the Bill from being approved.

There have been several earlier attempts to introduce seats reserved for women in the Indian Parliament:

  • 1996: The First Women Reservation Bill was introduced in the Parliament.
  • 1998 – 2003: The government presented the Bill on four occasions, but it failed to pass.
  • 2009: The government tabled the bill amid protests.
  • 2010: The Union Cabinet passed the Bill, and it was subsequently passed by the Rajya Sabha (RS).

In 2014, there were expectations that the Bill would be presented in the Lok Sabha (LS), continuing the long-standing discussion and efforts to promote gender equality in the Indian legislative system.

In the current scenario, there are 82 women Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Lok Sabha, accounting for approximately 15.2% of the total, while the Rajya Sabha has 31 women MPs, constituting around 13% of its members. Although these figures represent a significant increase compared to the early days of the 1st Lok Sabha when women’s representation was only 5%, India’s current representation of women in Parliament still falls behind many other countries.

Recent data from UN Women reveals that several nations have made significant strides in women’s representation in politics. Rwanda stands out with the highest proportion of women in its parliament at 61%, followed by Cuba at 53%, and Nicaragua at 52%. Additionally, Bangladesh (21%) and Pakistan (20%) surpass India in terms of female representation in their respective legislatures. These statistics underscore the need for continued efforts to promote gender equality and increase women’s participation in India’s political decision-making processes.

Significance of Women’s Reservation Bill

  1. Rectifying Gender Disparity in Legislation: Presently, there is a stark gender imbalance in India’s legislative bodies. Government statistics indicate that women occupy a mere 14.94% of seats in the Lok Sabha and 14.05% in the Rajya Sabha. The progress in women’s representation in the Lok Sabha since Independence has been painfully slow. In the inaugural Lok Sabha of 1952, women constituted a paltry 4.4% of its members, and this figure has only marginally increased to 14.94% after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Furthermore, many state assemblies have less than 10% female representation.

  2. Socio-economic Significance: The bill also underscores the importance of women’s participation in decision-making to address critical issues plaguing society, such as high rates of crimes against women, low female workforce participation, inadequate nutrition levels, and imbalanced sex ratios. It is believed that Parliament would be better equipped to discuss and address women’s issues effectively if there is increased women’s representation.

  3. Global Gender Gap Index Ranking: India’s ranking on the Global Gender Gap Index 2023 is 127th out of 146 nations, indicating significant gender disparities. Closing the gender gap in political empowerment, as per the report’s current rate of progress, would require another 162 years. This alarming statistic underscores the urgent need to take measures like the Women’s Reservation Bill to accelerate progress towards gender equality and empower women in the political sphere.

In essence, the Women’s Reservation Bill is a crucial step towards achieving gender parity in India’s legislative bodies and addressing a range of social and economic challenges that result from gender imbalances in decision-making.

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