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Women's bill: Concerns over uncertainty in implementation

Source: PTI   -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra
September 22, 2023 14:07 IST
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The passage of the women's reservation bill has ignited hope among stakeholders about attaining gender equality in India's political landscape, especially at the policy-making level, even as some raised concerns over its effectiveness given the uncertainty in the deadline for its implementation.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi exchanges greetings with the women MPs as they celebrate the passing of the Women's Reservation Bill in both houses of Parliament, in New Delhi on Thursday. Photograph: Shrikant Singh/ANI Photo

The bill to reserve one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women received the parliamentary nod on Thursday as the Rajya Sabha unanimously voted in its favour.

It will now require the approval of a majority of state assemblies.


The 128th Constitution amendment bill, referred to as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, will be implemented after a delimitation exercise to redraw parliamentary and assembly constituencies based on the census which the government has said will be commissioned next year.

Prominent lawyer Shilpi Jain said it could have been implemented immediately.

"Just give tickets to 33 per cent women! At least fix a time limit for its implementation. Otherwise, it's an eyewash. It's like being given a prize which can't be taken for the next few years!

"A law that doesn't have a time limit about its actual implementation doesn't come into effect till it's implemented! It's half a trophy being given now. The other half, no one knows if/when it will be given! she said.

Shabnam Hashmi, of the Left-leaning NGO Anhad, said that first there will be a census and after that, there will be delimitation. So, there is no guarantee of this happening even by 2029, she said.

The stakeholders, however, cautioned that reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies can become a token exercise as is seen in many Panchayat elections where 33 per cent of reserved seats are filled by female family members of politically influential sections of the community.

There should be provisions to encourage those from non-political backgrounds to contest polls rather than those picked by male members of politically influential families, they said.

Dolly Verma, a second-time sitting sarpanch from Bihar's Gaya who has been fighting against the system of "Sarpanch Patis" (husbands of elected village council heads) in India, expressed hope that the women's reservation bill will empower women "in the long run".

"Reservation in local governance has existed for a long time. But as a sarpanch elected twice to office, even today, I see that Sarpanch Patis are widely accepted.

"However, I have also seen a gradual change happening. Elected women are working as leaders and motivating other women too. I strongly feel that the women's reservation bill will empower women in the long run," she said.

Echoing her views, Hashmi said a large number of women are asserting themselves now. "At the MLA and MP levels, there would be a difference. A woman will need to establish herself at the constituency level, she will need to be more assertive and more self-dependent rather than depending on the family," she said.

Jain, however, said the bill's purpose of women's upliftment would be defeated if women from politically influential families only get tickets for the reserved Lok Sabha and Assembly seats.

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

Talking about the impact of the bill, Seema Bhaskaran, the Lead for Gender at the grassroots organisation Transform Rural India, emphasized that the bill's passage will enable India to reduce the gender gap.

"Women from rural and marginalised backgrounds facing ostracism and those at the bottom of the social order would gain representation equal to women from urban areas," she said.

"In southern states like Kerala, we have evidence that women elected representatives have played a key role in enhancing women's participation in gram sabhas and bringing in strategic interests like economic development projects and enhancing women's work participation rates," she added.

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Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Utkarsh Mishra© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.