It's 2019, and the question no longer is why women are needed in legislative positions, the question is WHEN is it happening. With the representation of women still being abysmally low in our Parliament houses, the need of the hour is clearly for the Women’s Reservation Bill to see the light of day. And for this to happen, we seek to pass with immediate effect The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008, which will ensure that one-third of all seats in the Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies are reserved for women. According to the Bill:
- The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament: Which will mean that once passed, the Bill will safeguard the rights of women to elected office.
- One-third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies: It will benefit women from ALL sections and classes of society.
- Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the State or Union Territory: This will ensure women from all corners of the country get their fair share of opportunities.
As is evident, this Bill will be of benefit to ALL women, from the grassroots to the higher offices, which will, in turn, have a positive impact on the society around them. And thus far, this is how far we've reached -
May 06th, 2008: The Bill is introduced in Rajya Sabha
May 09th, 2008: It is referred to a Standing Committee
December 17th, 2009: The Standing Committee submits its report
March 09th, 2010: The Bill is passed in the Rajya Sabha
2014: The Bill lapses after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha
September 21st, 2017: Smt. Sonia Gandhi in her capacity as Congress President writes to PM Modi urging him to pass the Bill and extends her support of it
July 16th, 2018: Congress President Rahul Gandhi writes to PM Modi, again offering unconditional support from the Congress party for the passage of the Bill The BJP does not pass the Bill, despite having a majority.
In 2019, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has already held meetings with all states which have elected the Congress government, and Rajasthan is in the process of passing the Bill, for which they met this January. The Congress President and the Party are fully committed to passing the Bill. Going back all the way to 1992 too, the 73rd and 74th Amendments introduced and passed by the Congress government headed by PV Narasimha Rao gave 33% reservation to women in urban and rural local bodies. With this track record and the present commitment of the Party, we will make sure our hopes for the Bill turn to reality.
That women are more than capable of leading the country at all levels, and in all capacities, has been proven time and again. To pick just a few examples, we’ve had women in the position of a -
- Health Minister: Amrit Kaur in Shri Jawaharlal Nehru’s 1st Cabinet (Congress)
- Prime Minister: Indira Gandhi (Congress)
- Chief Minister: Sucheta Kriplani of UP (Congress)
- Defence Minister: Indira Gandhi (Congress)
- Chief Minister: Sheila Dikshit (Congress)
Women have also been Party Presidents for the Congress on not one, but 5 occasions. The first female Party President was Annie Besant, while the first Indian Female President was Sarojini Naidu. Nellie Sengupta, Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi have also served as Presidents of the Congress Party. The BJP, on the other hand, has had zero female Party Presidents till today.
Of course, all of this is just a small example of all that women have achieved in India, and the country has progressed due to the contributions of all genders. Research has shown that gram panchayats with elected women leaders invested more in public goods that women cared about, such as drinking water, public health, sanitation, primary education, and roads, and that the measured quality of these goods was at least as high if not higher as in the non-reserved gram panchayats. Another study showed that reservation for women in gram panchayats not only led to a decrease in bias among voters against women candidates but also resulted in a subsequent increase in the overall percentage of female local leaders contesting and winning elections. These measures can go a very long way in ensuring the quality of lives of the women of India, and as a result of their families, improves considerably.
Despite all we’ve achieved, India still has a long way to go. While the Constituent Assembly had 15 women present, in 2019, there are only 91 women representatives in both Houses of Parliament in India. In the Lok Sabha, out of the 542 members, only 66 are women. In the Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, there are only 27 female MPs among 237 members. While the world average for women representatives in elected office stands at 22.4%, India fares poorly at a mere 11% in Rajya Sabha and a measly 10.6% for the Lok Sabha.
These numbers, along with the dreams of millions of women, speak for themselves. If India has to truly progress, it can no longer ignore its women. Help us make this a reality. Help us ensure #ThisBillWillPass.