Women’s Reservation Bill 2023 or Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam has been passed unanimously by both, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha reserving one-third of the seats in Lok Sabha, State legislative assemblies, and the Delhi assembly.
Women Reservation Bill 2023
Marking a historical event, the Government passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023 unanimously aiming to reserve 33% of seats in both the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies for women on 21st September 2023. It had already received approval from the Lok Sabha the day before.
The prior attempt was made in 2010 with the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 passed by only the Rajya Sabha but failed to be put in front of the Lok Sabha.
The Rajya Sabha achieved a significant milestone by granting approval to the groundbreaking bill that seeks to reserve one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women.
The 128th Constitution Amendment Bill had previously received resounding support in the Lok Sabha on September 20th, passing with a two-thirds majority.
With the Rajya Sabha’s endorsement, this historic bill has now been successfully passed by both Houses of Parliament. The bill will also apply to the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Lok Sabha and State Legislatures.
Efforts to support equal rights for women in society have been going on in India for many decades. The transformative bill encompasses the potential growth in the political aspect for women. Presently, there was a dire need for political encouragement of the government to provide a suitable bill for women to ensure equal representation in politics. If compared, the number of male politicians has always been more effective functioning than woman politicians.
The significant milestone was achieved and in a momentous display of support, the Women’s Reservation Bill garnered an impressive 214 votes in favor, with none opposing it in the Upper House.
Notably, there were no abstentions during the voting process, which was presided over by Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar. This historic legislation marks the first to be cleared by both Houses within the new Parliament building, signifying a significant step toward achieving gender equality and empowering women in the political landscape.
Purpose and Significance of The Women’s Reservation Bill 2023
Previous endeavors of the government in passing bills for the reservation of seats for women have failed primarily due to societal rejection towards woman and their political recognition as same as given to male party leaders.
The Women’s Reservation Bill in India reserves 33% of seats in both, the Lok Sabha and State Legislative assemblies for women empowering them with political representation and participation in decision-making processes at the highest levels of government.
The Bill multifariously creates gender equality and promotes women’s political leadership fulfilling India’s promise of women-led development.
We have seen women struggling socio-economically continuously for their equality, rights, liberty, and position in Indian society in every sector be it to run businesses, reservations, education, politics, maternity benefits, etc.
The bill addresses Indian socio-political barriers concerning women’s right to equal representation. Woman have to be given a voice and a strong position in legislative platforms to break stereotypical norms of society and voice their concerns with a strong notion. Women lack considerable representation in the parliament even after so many years of independence. Crimes against women, low participation in various departments, and unequal sex ratio prove the need for more women’s involvement in decision-making in various laws and legislations.
The need for the bill arose as earlier only 14% of seats were reserved for women in party functioning and decision-making for the nation, making them feel minorities and marginalized.
The affirming action in favor of women and their political stance in India intends to discuss issues more effectively in Parliament with the presence of more women.
The statistics as shown by the Union Government state that women held only 14.94% of seats in the Lok Sabha and 14.05% of seats in the Rajya Sabha proving a Disbalanced Gender Representation in Legislation. However, after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections the woman reserved seats increased to 14.94% from 4.4%.
Features and Highlights of The Women Reservation Bill 2023
- The Bill reserves one-third of seats for women in Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- The Bill also applies to the seats reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women in Lok Sabha and state legislatures.
- The reservation will be effective after the census once done after the commencement of this Bill has been published. Based on the conducted census, delimitation will be undertaken to reserve seats for women.
The Highlight Additions made in the constitution by the recent Bill are as follows
Article 330A allows Reservation for Women in the Lower House in the constitution under the provisions of Article 330 that provides for reservation of seats to SCs/STs in the Lok Sabha. The Bill provides one-third of reserved seats for women on a rotational basis and reservation of women seats in direct elections of the Lok Sabha.
Article 332A allows Reservation for Women in State Legislative Assemblies to provide the reservation of seats for women in every state Legislative Assembly. One-third of the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes must be allocated for women, and one-third of the total seats filled through direct elections to the Legislative Assemblies shall also be reserved for women.
Article 334A allows the Commencement and Implementation of Reservation provides that the reservation will be effective after the delimitation is undertaken following the publication of relevant census figures. Also, there will also be a rotation of seats for women after each subsequent exercise of delimitation and reservation will be provided for a period of 15 years (Sunset Provision). The rotation of seats will be distributed by rotation to constituencies within a state or union territory.
Article 239AA allows Reservation for Women in the NCT of Delhi and grants special status to the Union Territory of Delhi as national capital with regards to its administrative and legislative functioning. Reservation of seats for women in the Delhi Legislative Assembly with one-third of the seats reserved for scheduled castes for women along with seats filled by direct elections.
Key members of the committee and their recommendations
- The Constitution (Eighty-First Amendment) Bill was reviewed by a panel of MPs, and the panel had several prominent members. Some of these important members were namely, Mamata Banerjee, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharti, Sharad Pawar, Nitish Kumar, Vijay Bhaskar Reddy, etc.
- The panel of MPs recommended replacing the words “not less than one-third” with “as much as possible, one-third” for reserved seats Demand for reservation of seats for women in Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils Recommendation: Other Backward Classes (OBCs) should get the benefits of reservation “at the appropriate time”.
- Further one member from among the members nominated from the Anglo-Indian community, one by one being a woman.
Benefits of the Women’s Reservation Bill
Encouraging Equality and Empowerment in society: Through women’s reservations, women get a chance to be more active and participative in society as equal as men. This promotes empowerment to women providing them rights in political governance.
Special attention towards women and Decision making: Due to women’s reservations, issues regarding women are given special attention, and their needs are understood like in making policies and fighting for persisting women’s issues. They can directly be involved in the decision-making process while being a part of policy-making.
Leadership and Representation: As a result of women’s reservations, women are becoming more active in politics by representing high legislative bodies and are gaining leadership roles in solving the gender inequality running through the ages in Indian politics.
Multifaceted Reforms: Women can contribute to better legislation and policies regarding healthcare, family welfare, social development, poverty, childcare policies, etc. This inclusivity also breaks the stereotypical thinking regarding gender norms in society and brings a positive change by giving women a strong position in the nation’s governance and inspiring other women to become leaders.
Special Attention to Woman Laws: Women can put forward strongly the notions regarding laws and policies particularly concerning and protecting women’s rights domestically, at the workplace or in public.
History of the Women’s Reservation Bill
Earlier, the Union cabinet led by the Prime Minister had approved the Women’s Reservation (The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008 to provide reservations for women in Parliament and State Assemblies. The Bill had been introduced in Parliament several times but had not been passed into law due to lack of a majority. Political debates and delays have hindered its progress since the tenure of Former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 1996.
The National Perspective Plan for Women in 1988 recommended the implementation of reservations for women’s rights from the level of panchayats to the highest levels of Parliament. Through the 73rd and 74th amendments of the constitution, State governments were mandated to reserve one-third of the seats for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions and one-third of the offices of the chairperson at all levels of the Panchayati Raj Institutions, and in urban local bodies, respectively along with One-third reserved for Scheduled caste and tribe women.
Contribution of the Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao Governments, discussions on women’s reservations started after Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister. His government took many steps for women’s empowerment, and one of the major steps was women’s reservation. In 1996, he introduced the 21st Constitutional Amendment Bill, which provided for the reservation of seats in Parliament and the Legislative Assembly for women. This makes it clear that the seeds of women’s reservation were sown during the Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao governments.
As the First Attempt in the United Front Government, The Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Bill, 1996, was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996, by Ramakant D. Khalap, then Minister of State for Law in the United Front government. The basic message of the Bill was that to remove inequality in society, women should get reserved seats in the Parliament and Legislative Assembly. Through this reservation, women could become more active in politics and get the benefit of their rights in society. The bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha but failed to secure approval.
From 1998 to 2003 the government tabled the Bill four times in different years but failed due to inadequate support and a lack of votes in the majority. Additionally, reservations in higher legislative bodies were granted in the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women (2001).
The government again tried in 2009 amid protests. Further in 2010, the Union Cabinet and Rajya Sabha passed the Bill but became inoperative upon dissolution of Lok Sabha.
In May 2013, the Ministry of Women and Child Development constituted a committee on the status of women to ascertain a minimum of 50% reservation to women in political governance. In 2014, the Bill was again expected to be tabled in Lok Sabha however lapsed. In 2015, the Report on the Status of Women showed slight improvement but recommended at least 50% reservation of seats for women in the Local bodies, State Legislative Assemblies, Parliament, Ministerial levels, and all decision‐making bodies of the government.
The positive reintroduction of the bill in 2023 and its approval have marked a historic event.
Challenges, Oppositions, and Controversies
The recommendations of the panel of MPs were in favor of women’s reservation, but despite this, there were controversies and opposition.
The largest portion of the controversy came from the OBC (Other Backward Class) community that the Bill allocates 33% of seats for women but does not include women from OBC. They believed that they were also entitled to the benefits of women’s reservations and should be included in the reserved seats. Nitish Kumar, who was the Chief Minister of Bihar, was also in the middle of this controversy and had demanded reservation for OBC women as recommended earlier in the Geeta Mukherjee Committee in 1996.
A major concern was that women do not build a homogenous group/community like other castes and others strongly argued that women need to compete on their own merits and reservation would provide benefits without merits and qualifications. Hence, lack of genuine political governance.
Other challenges included demands such as the provision governing reserved seats in states, the arrangement for the date of the Act, and the demand to estimate the rotation policy. There was uncertainty regarding the clarity of the Delimitation process as to when the will reservation be completed once the delimitation is undertaken and details of data/timing of consensus are published. The Bill clearly does not mention the period of elections distributing shares to women.
Further, the newly introduced Rotation process in each election might hamper the efforts and quality work of the MP for their existing constituency due to the absence of re-election for the existing constituency.
Global Examples Related to Women’s Reservation
- Globally, women leaders are demonstrating superior performance in various leadership roles.
- Scandinavian countries have instituted policies and governance frameworks promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment, particularly in political and leadership positions.
- Norway, for instance, implemented a quota system in 2003, mandating that 40% of corporate board seats must be occupied by women.
- Countries under the leadership of women often exhibit exemplary policies and governance practices.
- In Rwanda, a central African nation, women leaders have played a predominant role in healing the deep scars left by the genocide and initiating critical social reforms.
Women Reservation Bill UPSC
Consensus Building: Bringing together different political parties for negotiations and discussions to address concerns and reach compromises is crucial for bill passage.
Public Awareness: Generating public support through campaigns, seminars, and social media to emphasize the positive impact of increased female representation.
Advocacy: Women’s rights organizations, activists, and civil society groups play a pivotal role in lobbying, organizing rallies, and exerting public pressure.
Addressing Concerns: Acknowledging and mitigating concerns of opposing parties by conducting research and developing equitable rotation systems.
Women’s reservation was an effort towards equality in the society of women in Indian society, the seeds of which were sown during the Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao governments. Although the first attempt failed, through women’s reservation, women get a chance to be more active in society, and the process of equality in society is promoted. Despite this, further challenges need to be addressed so that women can become fully equal in society.