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Now or never, say activists on women’s quota bill

Jul 14, 2017

A large number of women’s organizations and individuals get together to push the passage of the long pending bill in the monsoon session of Parliament.

New Delhi: The National Alliance for Women’s Reservation Bill comprising more than 1600 women’s organizations brought together a large number of activists to demand the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament, which starts July 17, 2017.

The 18 year-journey of the Women’s Reservation Bill was marked by high drama and hit roadblocks in each of its outings in theParliament before the historic measure cleared the first legislative hurdle in 2010. Sadly enough, a number of male parliamentarians over the years have opposed the passing of the Bill, leaving it in its current state.

The Bill was introduced twice in Parliament in 2003 and after an all-party meeting, BJP spokesperson Vijay Malhotra said, “We want the Bill passed in this session itself, with or without consensus.”

“Through this press conference, we want to send the message to the Speaker, Lok Sabha; Minister of Parliament Affairs, Minister of Law and Justice, Parliamentarians, and office bearers of all the political parties that this is the right time to table the bill in Parliament. Statistics suggest that if the bill gets tabled in the present session, Lok Sabha and the required number of State Assemblies will certainly pass it. We face a now or never situation, and the government should now lead by example,” said the activists who gathered at Press Club to present their demands.

Studies show that India stands at a pitiable 103rd place out of 140 countries in terms of women in Parliament and State Assemblies.Although several countries of the world are witnessing an increase in the number of women in politics (the recent UK and France elections are a case in point), India continues to lag behind with a dismal representation of women in Parliament and State Assemblies. Nevertheless, the patriarchal mindsets in the Indian politics fail to change despite our tall claims of being a progressive democracy. More importantly, the tabling of Women’s Reservation Bill is not in the agenda of the Monsoon session of Parliament, and that is quite discouraging for women’s groups.

Even after 70 years of Independence, crime against women is rampant and gender equality is completely lacking in every sphere of society. The status of women is best reflected in the political sphere, where women hold mere 12 percent seats in Parliament and an average of 9 percent in State Assemblies in India.

Women’s groups believe that unless there are more women in politics, their concerns cannot be addressed consistently and effectively.The National Alliance for WRB routinely demands action for women’s political empowerment. According to the Alliance, 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.

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 is vital for realising women’s rights under the Constitution of India and for addressing the widespread gender inequality throughout the country.The Women’s Reservation Bill, which is currently a live bill that has been passed by the Rajya Sabha can be taken by the present government with a 2/3rd majority. The point of this bill is to give women a ground to fight elections where women will fight women only, so that the winner will also be a woman.

The activists who were present on the occasion included Alka Lamba, MLA, Delhi Vidhan Sabha, Annie Raja, General secretary of National Federation of Indian Women, Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director, Centre for Social Research, Dr Jyotsna Chatterjee, Director & Secretary, Joint Women's Programme and Veena Kohli, Patron, All India Women's Conference, New Delhi.

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