Women’s Reservation Bill: The Long Road to Empowerment

In a landmark moment for gender equality in Indian politics, the Women's Reservation Bill, aiming to provide a 33% quota for women in both the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, was formally introduced during the ongoing special session of Parliament on September 19.

In a landmark moment for gender equality in Indian politics, the Women’s Reservation Bill, aiming to provide a 33% quota for women in both the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, was formally introduced during the ongoing special session of Parliament on September 19.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; NARI SHAKTI VANDAN ADHINIYAM

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, acknowledging the significance of this day, called upon the Opposition to unite in passing the bill, which had been pending for nearly three decades.

“On this historic occasion in the new Parliament building, as the first proceeding of the House, the beginning of all the Parliamentarians opening gateways for women power is being done with this crucial decision.” He emphasized that his government was taking a crucial step forward in women-led development by introducing this “Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam,” which represents an important constitutional amendment.

Highlighting the potential impact of this legislation, PM Modi said, ” ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ will further empower our democracy.” He expressed his commitment to making this bill a law and urged all members of both Houses to unanimously pass it.

As the bill was tabled by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, it was revealed that the amendment would substantially increase the number of women MPs in the Lok Sabha from the current 82 to 181, marking a significant step towards gender parity in Indian politics.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL: A PATH TO GENDER EQUALITY

The Constitution 108th Amendment Bill, 2008 aims to reserve one-third (33%) of the total number of seats in state legislative Assemblies and Parliament for women. Additionally, the bill proposes sub-reservation for SCs, STs, and Anglo-Indians within the 33% quota. Seats reserved for women may be allocated by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory. The bill stipulates that the reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of the amendment act.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; HISTORICAL CONTEXT

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi planted the seed of women’s reservation in elected bodies by introducing the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide one-third reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies in May 1989. While the Bill was successfully passed in Lok Sabha, it faced opposition in the Rajya Sabha in September 1989.

In 1992 and 1993, then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao reintroduced the Constitution Amendment Bills 72 and 73, reserving one-third (33%) of all seats and chairperson posts for women in rural and urban local bodies. These Bills passed both houses and became law, resulting in nearly 15 lakh elected women representatives in panchayats and nagarpalikas across the country.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; DEVE GOWDA-LED UNITED FRONT GOVERNMENT

The journey continued in September 1996 when the Deve Gowda-led United Front government introduced the 81st Constitution Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha for the reservation of women in Parliament. Unfortunately, the Bill failed to secure approval in Lok Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; ATAL BIHARI VAJPAYEE-LED NDA GOVERNMENT

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government attempted to pass the WRB Bill in the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998, but it also faced resistance and lapsed. Subsequent attempts in 1999, 2002, and 2003 under the Vajpayee government yielded no success.

WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL; MANMOHAN SINGH-LED UPA GOVERNMENT

Five years later, during Manmohan Singh-led UPA government-1, the WRB bill gained traction. In 2004, it was included in the Common Minimum Programme and was finally tabled in the Rajya Sabha on May 6, 2008, to prevent it from lapsing again. This version of the Bill included five of the seven recommendations made by the 1996 Geeta Mukherjee Committee. After a series of reviews, it received the Union Cabinet’s approval in February 2010 and passed in the Rajya Sabha with a resounding 186-1 vote on March 9, 2010.

However, the Bill remained unaddressed in the Lok Sabha and eventually lapsed in 2014 with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. It’s worth noting that Bills introduced or passed in the Rajya Sabha do not lapse, hence the Women’s Reservation Bill remains an active legislative proposal.

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