Women Reservation in Legislature

Facts:
  • In 21 out of 30 Indian states, female voter turnout exceeded male turnout in their most recent assembly elections – EC Date
  • Female registered voters were equal to or greater in number than male registered voters in just seven states
  • Women represent almost 50% of the population of India. But their representation in public life is low
  • India ranks well below the global average in terms of women’s representation in Parliament, as well as amongst countries which have mandated the minimum representation of women in Parliament through law
  • In the Human Development Report, India ranks very low on the Gender Inequality Index compared to many other developing countries
  • Female participation in the labour market is 29%, compared with 80.7% for men.
  • Women’s ownership of land and property is less than 4%, whereas 73% of food is produced by rural women
 
Women Reservation Bill Issue:
Issue: Call for revival of the Constitution (108th) Amendment Bill to reserve for women one-third of seats in Parliament and the State legislatures.
Status: The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2010
Change at a glacial pace— Number of women legislators in the current Lok Sabha is a mere 12 per cent, it has steadily increased through the years (it was 5 per cent in 1951)
Real stumbling block to the Bill: The existing patriarchal mind-set within the very same parties that have affirmed support to it (Congress & BJP; uniformly and strongly chauvinistic)
 
 
Why women reservation is needed?
Poor participation of women has a direct impact on the priorities and assumptions of policies and legislations. There will be a qualitative change in governance with the inclusion of women in decision-making processes. hence, reservation for women is necessary
 
Why some scholars are against reservation for women?
Some scholars have proposed that reservation can have the unintended and adverse consequence of weakening local democracy. They believe that women, who are elected from reserved constituencies, serve as proxies for their male relatives—exercising nominal power while the men retain the real work of governance. Reservation, they therefore argue, intensifies the problem of gender inequality by giving it the veneer of a solution.
However, the last decade has seen a wave of changes. Some argue that even if women are pushed into power with the intent of being proxies, they are eventually able to influence the delivery of public services. In particular, research has shown that women’s needs are better addressed in villages where there is a female sarpanch.
 
Other challenges before this policy:
  • Acceptability of women as elected representatives is an issue. Male members try to create hurdles in the smooth functioning of the Panchayat taking advantage of the woman’s illiteracy or ignorance.
  • Also, sometimes, officials with whom the elected women representatives must work can act as impediments in their work.
 
 
Critically examine why the need for reservation for women in the legislature is said to be an urgent requirement in India. (200 Words)
 
Representative democracy is to represent the interest of every community of the country but the data released by Election Commission of India recently on the general election of 16th Lok Sabha reveals that out of 543 members only 66 members are women making up to 12.16% despite the fact that women make 50% of country‘s population.
Women’s reservation bill has failed many times due to various reasons but the genuine requirement for the same is tough to deny as women face various issues and the patriarchal dominance of political space is one of the reasons perceived for such a situation. The need for reservation for women is pressing due to various reasons:
  1. Women have suffered historically form many disabilities like sati, denial of rights to widows, etc. to much recent female foeticide, harassments, etc., Reservation is seen as ensuring level playing field and uplifting those who had disabilities imposed upon them historically.
  2. Women’s reservation is already provided at local bodies level like panchayats and municipalities and this constitutionally guaranteed provision has ensured widening of grassroots participation and effective decentralisation of power. The same model could be replicated at higher levels also.
  3. Dominance of male candidates in elections and patriarchal mindset of society often pushes the women’s issues to the backburner. Effective representation will bring out women to the front.
Various parameters like Gender Inequality Index measure political participation of women and we lag in these parameters. Many leaders have advocated more women participation like Gandhiji, Sardar Patel and Subhash Bose. Though, such representation could not change attitude overnight but woman empowerment is important even from the point of view of the Development Goals.
But the whole issue also suggests the failure of all male politicians to grant equal status to women and points to the inability and callousness by stereotyping all male politicians as anti-reservation for women. Also parties seem reluctant to grant tickets to female candidates. The reservation could be provided in a phased manner and can be viewed separately from the caste based reservation. While women constitute about a half of society, giving them 1/3 seats should be viewed as a moral step as the true empowerment can be endowed by political representation not necessarily by financial schemes and policy measures.
 
Equal representation
Voice to Women
Better understanding of women issues to formulate more effective laws
Empowerment –> Development