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The first session of the recently elected 17th Lok Sabha is going to end soon, but there is no plan yet, to table the Women’s Reservation Bill, making us wonder if this was just another election gimmick!
In spite of several efforts by various citizens groups and organisations, as of today, even a debate on the bill seems a distant reality.
Is this promise for 33% women reservation just another election gimmick which parties use to woo women voters every time just before the elections? These promises which gain momentum just before the polls and die as soon as the government gets into power – will they ever be delivered
The Women’s Reservation Bill, which was first introduced in 2008, was presented as a document and has been torn many times in the lower house until it got stalled about nine years back. The percentage of women making inroads to the Parliament remained a meagre 14% in 2019 elections too. The higher representation of women in the political landscape of our country will remain a dream, thanks to the power play of patriarchy unless reservation of women in politics becomes a reality.
BJP, INC and almost all the major national and regional parties came out with their support for the bill in their manifestos. However, there isn’t a whisper about it now. It has very conveniently been omitted from the list of bills to be tabled in this session.
Just a few days and the inaugural session of Parliament will end. (scheduled for July 26 unless it gets extended till August 2). The bill will again be stalled until next the next session. While the political parties may have done a lot of talk to woo women voters, yet walking the talk still seems missing.
Various citizens groups and organizations have been working hard to ensure that a constant pressure remains on the ruling party as well as the opposition and the promises are delivered this time. Here is how Shakti has worked with various citizens and organizations in the recent past to ensure that the bill gets attention from all the stakeholders in the ongoing Parliament session –
1) Letters to the Law Minister Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad and WCD Minister Ms Smriti Irani– At the beginning of the inaugural session in June, around 270 organizations and people from varied backgrounds joined hands with Shakti. A letter was thus sent to the Union Law Minister Mr Ravi Shankar Singh and also to WCD Minister, Mrs Smriti Irani urging them to table the bill for discussion in the current session.
2) Call the MP campaign – On July 17, hundreds of men and women volunteers from all over the country called several MPs from 29 Indian states. From the 223 who were reached, 75 answered. Out of this, 63 affirmed their support for the bill.
3) Political dialogue in Chennai – On July 20, an interactive political discussion was organized by the Centre for Social Research with support from Shakti and Global Concerns India. The focus was to discuss ways to push the ruling party to table the bill. And also to garner the support of opposition (DMK, INC, VCK) to push the ruling party to comply with their manifesto. The collective submitted this resolution to all the MPs requesting them to immediately introduce and pass the women’s bill in the current session of Lok Sabha.
Women’s Reservation Bill is one of those bills which has been agreed to by all yet hasn’t seen the light of the day.
As DMK leader and MP Kanimozhi says, “This is one of those unusual cases of a bill agreeable to all parties, but no one passes it! It never even makes it to the list of businesses in the Parliament sessions despite many of us raising it repeatedly. While it is commendable that the BJD & AITMC gave 33% and 40% Lok Sabha tickets to women candidates, the numbers are unpredictable and may go down again, so we need the bill. That is the only permanent assurance of seats.”
Will the ruling party who basks in the glory of having a majority use it to pass the bill? Will the opposition which supports it in the open, vote for it in the house once it is tabled for discussion? So many questions. But one thing is clear. Unless we exert pressure from all corners and in the right direction, even fifty years from now, we, the women of this country wouldn’t have adequate representation in the political landscape. It is our right, not ask. The time is now.
Author’s note: Shakti – Political Power to Women is a citizens’ movement striving to bring more women to power by working at multiple levels.
Image source: YouTube
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Present - North India Lead - Education, Charter for Compassion, Co-Author - Escape Velocity, Writer & Social Activist.
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