The Siasat Daily
New Delhi

According to a report by the poll rights body Association of Democratic Reforms from December, 2019, out of the total 4896 MPs/MLAs across the country, only 418 or 9 per cent are women.

Cautioning against any quota for women in Parliament and assemblies becoming a token exercise, rights activists on Tuesday said there should be provisions to encourage those from non-political background to contest polls rather than those picked by male members of politically influential families.

They pointed out that in certain instances in Panchayat elections the 33 per cent reserved seat are filled by female family members of politically influential sections of the community.

The government on Tuesday introduced a constitutional amendment bill to reserve one-third of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women, reviving a bill pending for 27 years for want of consensus among parties.

Making it the first bill to be introduced in the new Parliament building, the government said it will enable greater participation of women in policy-making at the state and national levels and help achieve the goal of making India a developed country by 2047.

Asked how it could be ensured the 33 per cent reservation for women is implemented in a true sense and not reduced to tokenism with male family members picking up the candidates, women rights activist Shabnam Hashmi said a large number of women are asserting themselves now.

“At the MLA and MP level there would be a difference, she would need to establish herself at the constituency level, she will need to be more assertive and more dependent on self rather than the family,” she said.

Hashmi said there is a need to increase the reservation from 33 per cent to 50 per cent. “Women have been further marginalised during the past nine years. It is important to have equal number of women at policy level,” she said. Hashmi said reservation for women cannot have an end date.

“We thought in ten years Dalits will have equal status and won’t need reservation. It will take a few generations to reach a situation where women have equal status in society. Reservation for women cannot have an end date,” she said.

Shilpi Jain, a prominent lawyer, said the purpose to uplift women would be defeated if women are from the same family where male members are in politics.

“There could be a provision to encourage women who are not from political backgrounds to contest, otherwise the purpose would be defeated,” she said.

Poonam Muttreja, the Executive Director of the Population Foundation of India, expressed her optimism about the bill.

“The passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in Parliament would be a momentous occasion, representing a significant stride towards gender equality and women’s empowerment in public decision-making,” she said.

Muttreja highlighted the historical underrepresentation of women in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies and stressed that this bill could bridge this gender gap, providing women with a stronger voice in policy making.

Cutting across political lines, leaders have been demanding the introduction of the women’s reservation bill, which guarantees a 33 per cent quota in Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

According to a report by the poll rights body Association of Democratic Reforms from December, 2019, out of the total 4896 MPs/MLAs across the country, only 418 or 9 per cent are women.

In the present Lok Sabha, 82 women members were elected which account for less than 15 per cent of the total strength of 543.

In Rajya Sabha too, women’s representation is about 14 per cent, according to the data shared by the government with Parliament last December.

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