Women Reservation Bill 2023: Empowering Women in the Lok Sabha
In a historic move, the Lok Sabha has initiated discussions on the Women Reservation Bill 2023, marking a significant milestone in the realm of gender equality in India. This bill has allocated a dedicated seven-hour slot for deliberation, and it was kickstarted by Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the Congress party. The Cabinet, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, granted its approval for the bill on a Monday. With support coming in from various political parties, the chances of the bill’s passage have increased significantly. It’s worth noting that this bill was first introduced in Parliament back in 1996 but faced numerous obstacles and failed to pass. Now, as it re-emerges, it has ignited a fierce political debate.
The Provision for 33% Reservation
One of the central provisions of this bill is the allocation of 33% reservation for women in both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, as well as state legislative assemblies. This reservation will be effective for 15 years from the date of enactment, though Parliament may extend this timeline. It’s expected that once the bill takes the form of an act, it will be implemented after the next census, which will be based on population statistics. The Constitution (128th Amendment) Act, 2023, introduces three articles and a clause concerning this women’s reservation. Article 239AA discusses the reservation of one-third of seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) women. These seats will be filled through direct elections, exclusively reserved for women. Similarly, in Article 330A, one-third of the seats in the Lok Sabha will be reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women, to be filled through direct elections. Article 332A mandates one-third of the seats in state legislative assemblies to be reserved for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe women, also filled through direct elections.
Center vs. Opposition: The Verbal Duel
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for greater inclusion of women in policy-making and stated that the Women Reservation Bill is set to become ‘immortal’ due to its presentation on September 19th. However, the opposition, including the Congress party, has labeled the bill as a mere ‘gimmick’ by the BJP government, claiming that it constitutes a ‘massive betrayal’ of Indian women. The BJP, in response, criticized the Congress for not taking women’s reservation seriously in both the Lok Sabha and state legislatures. Union Home Minister Amit Shah expressed dismay at the opposition’s stance, stating that they should be ashamed of their disregard for women’s issues. He argued that the Congress had never been sincere about women’s reservation. In the midst of this political tussle, the fate of the Women Reservation Bill hangs in the balance.
Mallikarjun Kharge’s Opposition: Questioning the ‘Weak Women’
In the Rajya Sabha, opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge expressed strong opposition, questioning the fact that most political parties do not allocate tickets to women from weaker sections of society. He launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Modi, accusing his government of making the federal framework ‘feeble.’ Kharge remarked during his speech that it’s a common practice among all political parties to give tickets to women from weaker sections who would remain silent and not raise their voices. Such women are chosen in a manner that ensures they don’t speak out or assert their rights. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman strongly responded to Kharge’s statement, saying that the opposition should not insult people in this manner. She emphasized that political parties should not disrespect women by limiting their rights. In response, she asserted, “Who is Draupadi Murmu? Opposition leaders should not demean people, discriminate against women, and create divisions among them. We demand reservations for all women.”
In conclusion, the Women Reservation Bill 2023 represents a crucial step toward gender parity in Indian politics. The provision for 33% reservation is a significant stride toward empowering women and ensuring their representation in legislative bodies. While political debates and disagreements continue, the bill’s potential impact on women’s participation in governance cannot be underestimated.