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Activists urge Indian President, PM to pass Women's Bill

Nov 11, 2013

Ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament, women activists in India have pointed out the delay in passage of Women's Reservation Bill.

New Delhi: The Time for 33 Percent Coalition is calling on the President of India, the Prime Minister of India, the Members of Parliament, and Political Parties across the country to demonstrate their commitment to women’s rights and gender equality by passing the Women’s Reservation Bill during the Winter Session of Parliament, 2013.

The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 March, 2010 demonstrating its acceptance among political parties and members of parliament. However, it is still awaiting approval in the Lok Sabha and has now been pending for 17 years.

The Government of India must fulfill its obligation to table the Bill in the winter session of parliament and the members of the Lok Sabha must follow the lead of their Ragya Sabha colleagues in passing the Bill. Only after the Bill is passed will women be able to take an active and equal role in our governance bodies.

Indian Women’s struggle for fair representation in the Parliament is perhaps the longest struggle in the history of democratic India. After 65 years of freedom and democracy Indian women still fail to enjoy full and equal citizenship and make up only 11% of elected representatives across the country. This remains a major challenge to our realisation of true democratic governance.

Over the next two months State Elections are being held in New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. Tickets are not being allocated to women in all 5 states and political parties argue that women candidates have a lower winability. It is clear that political parties will only allocated tickets to women once the Bill is passed.

Women’s full and equal political participation is critical to the achievement of gender equality. Women have a fundamental right to participate in politics, to contend elections and to take up leadership positions in local, state or national governments. Gender equality cannot be achieved until women have the opportunity to participate equally in all spheres of society – including the political arena. Women’s political empowerment also leads to positive health, education and infrastructure outcomes and strengthens democracy by ensuring that governance reflects community needs.

The Women’s Reservation Bill was developed in order to facilitate women’s political participation by reserving 33 percent of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. The Bill also reserves one third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies for women from those groups. The reservation of seats will be rotated between different constituencies in the state and union territories and will be terminated 15 years after the commencement of the Act. The Bill is vital for realising women’s rights under the Constitution of India and for addressing the widespread gender inequality throughout the country.

With the 2014 general election in sight and the possibility of a new government with new priorities, it is critical that the Bill is passed in the Winter Session of Parliament. In this context, the Time for 33 Percent Coalition has come together to demand action for women’s political empowerment. Women’s participation in politics is a human right and the cornerstone of women’s equal citizenship. It is also essential for achieving genuine and effective democratic governance. It is time to move beyond traditional and patriarchal social, cultural and political structures. It is time to build a new inclusive and gender sensitive India. We cannot do this while women are excluded from decision-making bodies. Throughout the country, men’s dominance of politics must be made a thing of the past. It is women leaders who hold the keys to our future.

About the Time for 33 Percent Coalition: The Time for 33 Percent Coalition is an alliance of leading Institutions working in the field of women’s rights and social action. The goal of the alliance is to advance women’s equality and empowerment by getting Women’s Reservation Bill tabled and passed by the Lok Sabha in the Winter Session of Parliament, 2013.

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