In this blog post, Priyanka Kansara, a law student, from National Law University, Jodhpur writes on, Women’s Reservation Bill- Do we need it?
The concept of Reservation policies is not a new phenomenon. It’s been raised from time to time by several specific groups, i.e. reservation for SC/ST/OBC by the respective groups; those groups think that by getting reservation, they would be able to get the representation for their class, but what is to be understood is that reservation and representation are two different phenomena. The point of reservation and representation is misunderstood by many. Merely getting reservation doesn’t mean that you would get enough representation to be heard. The present discussion is all about what the Women Reservation Bill is and how it will help in empowering the women of this country.
Women Empowerment gives the women an ability to decide, enhance their quality to participate, enhance their performance in their respective fields, and assists in their development. People think reservation is necessary for women empowerment, as it gives them the right to take part in policy making which are beneficial for the women made by the assistance of women.
“Achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men in decision-making will provide a balance that more accurately reflects the composition of society and is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning. Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved,” these particular statements introduce the theme correctly as to what legislators want exactly from Women’s Reservation Bill, which is swinging like a pendulum in the galleries of the Parliament. The battle for greater representation to women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies was routinely punctuated by frayed tempers and war of words which sometimes got physical, as different governments since 1996 tried to get the Women’s Reservation Bill passed in Parliament without success. The Bill also lapsed each time the House was dissolved and was re-introduced by the Government of the day.
Women Reservation Bill
Women Reservation Bill, which was introduced by the parliament in the 108th Constitutional 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 the authority as prescribed by Parliament. Further, it is proposed in the Bill that in Lok Sabha, one-third of the total number of seats which are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups. Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory. However, the reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
The main objective of the drafters of this bill had the objective, to give a right to women to take part in political activities and right to ensure a place in politics. However, this idea is not new. In 1993, the 73rd amendment to the Constitution of India gave more administrative power and decision-making authority to elected village Gram Panchayats and mandated that one-third (selected at random) of village council’s head positions should be reserved for women. Most major states, except UP, now reserve 33% of their Gram Panchayat Pradhan seats for women by rotation each election cycle. Many local government bodies and councils allocate a significant percentage of seats to women such as all of Kerala – which has 50% reservation, Delhi, and Calcutta.
It is true that empowering women and ensuring their full participation in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace but whether it is important to ponder upon the idea that, whether the ‘reservation’ the only way to ensure equal participation of Women in every aspect for the development of the Country.
The Legislators, while stressing the necessity for affirmative action to improve the condition of women, thought that with the full participation of women and with ensuring effective, efficient and mutually reinforcing gender-sensitive policies and programmes, including development policies and programmes at all levels, will result in the increase of empowerment and advancement of women.
On the contrary, the opposition opine that the reservation policy would defeat the merit-based selection policy, which could enhance the corrupt activities. It could also be interesting to have some reservation in the political parties, or dual member constituencies, which could give voters the right to vote for the eligible female candidate/s, but there is one beneficial possibility could be seen in the Women Reservation i.e. Women–friendly personnel policies.
The struggle for political rights by women’s groups has been the longest in the history of independent India as the proposed constitution amendment bill had been deferred several times by successive governments since 1996. And passing this Bill is still a struggle as till date the Lok Sabha has not approved Bill.
The Concept of Equal Participation: Impact of Political Participation on the Women Empowerment
Equal participation in politics is the factor behind the Women Reservation Bill; even if the Bill is passed will it guarantee equal right to participation of women in politics and Political Institutions?
Having women in power doesn’t ensure that women or their opinions would be accepted. Mere reservation is not a solution; we will have to ensure the representation of women. It should have a potential to remove the increasing segregation and inequality.
As per World Bank data, in 2015, women in India have 12% participation in national parliament, as compared to countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iraq and Pakistan which have 28%, 20%, 27% and 21% women participation in their parliaments.
Even though the number is quite better than that of India, but the emerging question is that whether these Countries are doing well in Women Empowerment?
After having a brief discussion on the issue of correlation between Women Reservation Bill and Women Empowerment, the last question arises as to whether we (still) need Women Reservation Law to ensure Women’s equalized participation in the political gallery. The Women Reservation Bill could be beneficial if the reservation policy is framed as per the socio-economic development, geography, culture, education and the type of political development, as the Socio-economic status of women in the society has a direct influence on their participation in the political sector. Furthermore, eradication of poverty could be a connecting factor for enhancing women participation in the political arena, for that matter we need to rejuvenate the labour and industrial law policy. The economic empowerment and financial independence of women could escalate the opportunities for women to access education and information would assist women to think beyond the constraints of the household for the full participation in politics and political elections.
For the Women Empowerment, we need to have women’s equal participation with men in power and decision making is part of their fundamental right to participate in political life, and for that purpose, recognition and representation are the primary need than that of the reservation. Grass-root level participation such as in Local electoral bodies should be ensured, which could enhance their confidence and facilitates them to share their experience. Moreover, new ways of thinking and acting, educational activities, research about women’s status, and means of communication among women’s organizations are needed. Though the building up of a society according to a paradigm that reflects their values, strengths and aspirations, and thereby reinforce their interest and participation in political processes. The emergence of political, institutional and financial guarantees can promote women’s candidacies to ensure the equal participation of female nominees in electoral campaigns; for that purpose, we definitely need to have the Women Reservation Bill to enhance the opportunity, not just for the sake of improving the data concerning Women Participation in the political arena.