By- Harshpreet Kaur
“…. Her wings are cut and then she is blamed for not knowing how to fly.” This quote by Simone de Beauvoir tells a lot about the position of women in Indian politics. The tabling of Women Reservation Bill was not a day struggle of our eminent female representatives who by virtue of their fate to some extent and by virtue of their firing power managed to get into this patriarchal politics of India. While large number of women representatives stood for it directly in front, there were also numerous ladies who supported it in their own latent ways.
Many female leaders, even after being the member of the opposing parties, chose to stay quiet in the discussions and arguments related to this bill; rather than opposing it. They extended their support in their own ways. Feminists all across the country extremely long for the enactment of this bill. They have realized the importance of equal representation of women in all the decision-making policies. It is really shameful to get to know about the infinitesimal number of women in the parliament of that country which ironically personifies itself as a “FEMALE FIGURE- MOTHER INDIA”.
Unless and until, women do not get at least 33% of reservation in Indian parliament and state legislative assemblies, it is actually impossible to formulate the policies that favor women. There are mainly two categories of problems faced by women of our country- Implicit and Explicit. It is not at all astonishing to see men talking about problems of women that are clearly visible, i.e., those problems which are explicit. But there are also many grievances of women across the country which can only be understood by other women. Females can easily sympathize with their sisters and lead to the commencement of acts and progression of steps which can better the condition of women around.
The reservation of women in Indian politics, its origin and requirement of its enactment has been thoroughly elaborated and discussed below. Also, the comparison has been made between the reservation of women in India and its neighboring countries in the subsequent paragraphs.
WOMEN RESERVATION BILL-
This Bill was initially introduced in the parliament for the very first time on September 12, 1996. It was put forward by the United Front government of HD Deve Gowda. This bill aimed at reservation of33% of seats of Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies for women. According to this bill, the seats would be reserved on the rotational basis. This means that the seats would be determined by a draw of lots in such a way that a seat would only be reserved once in every three consecutive general elections, i.e., after every fifteen years.
Vajpayee government pushed for the bill in Lok Sabha but unfortunately, it was not passed. This bill has been introduced and re-introduced in the parliament several times after 1996 in the years 1998, 1999, 2003 and 2008. After the struggles of all of these years, it was again brought to the table after being passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010; but was still left pending in Lok Sabha. In today’s date, this bill has made history of more than 25 years.
HURDLES TO WOMEN’S ENTRY INTO POLITICS
PERCEPTION THAT WOMEN ARE UNINTERESTED IN POLITICS- Many people think that politics should not include women because parliament is not the suitable place for them. They believe that women belong to their homes only. And if they are given the opportunities to come forward in politics then they should limit their powers to just local governmental bodies. They are not expected to come out of their peepholes and represent themselves on a larger scale.
DEEPROOTED PATRIARCHAL STRUCTURE IN POLITICAL PARTIES- There exists a long-term patriarchy in all the spheres around us. Major Indian national political parties consist of orthodox and conservative male members. These representatives can not bear to see women competing against them. In my opinion, they are just afraid of the thought of women winning and working more efficiently than them.
FINANCIAL DEPENDENCE- Though we live in 21st century, then too we can observe large number of women around us who are dependent on their fathers, brothers or husbands for their livelihood. They are not financially independent; therefore, they cannot afford the expenditures of contesting elections.
FAMILY RESTRICTIONS- We reside in a society where being an outspoken woman is always a curse. Women who haveguts to represent themselves in politics are often subjugated by their family members. Also, there aresome instances where women do not even have courage toaskfrom their family members that they wish to join politics and serve their country.
OPPOSITION THAT SAYS, THIS BILL WOULD CONTINUE TO PERPETUATE INEQUALITY TOWARDS WOMEN- Since the introduction of this bill in the houses of parliament, there has been a strong stiff force at its opposition always. The opposers claim that the provision of “quota within the quota” should be added to the mainstream guidelines of this bill. The quota for SCs, STs, Anglo Indian women, etc. was demanded by their side. They also stand still with their view that this bill would cause more unequal treatment towards women. But I would specifically like to mention that these demands and claims are raised by them only to resist the enactment of the bill. The actual fact is that they just want to suppress it and delay its commencement as long as possible while they have nothing to do with the rights of women.
ORIGIN OF WOMEN RESERVATION BILL-
The inception of the idea of reservation of women in Indian politics had emerged through their representation in local bodies. One-third of the total number of seats in all local bodies are reserved for women as per the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Act passed in 1993. Women leaders have shown their utmost skills and capabilities at the local levels which led the thinkers to bring in the idea of extending the reservation of women to Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies.
At first, women sarpanch only owned the superficial position and the actual powers were exercised by her husband or any male member of her family. But eventually, with the passage of time, women have learned to speak up for their rights and duties. Now, they have finally realized the necessity of their representation in politics for the overall gender-neutral development of society. Even after gaining experience of more than a decade, women still lag behind in this race of politics and there is much more left to it.
THE NEED OF REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN POLITICS-
It is rightly said that, “suffering is very personal.” Only women can feel every sort of harassment faced by other women around. To combat gender inequality in the political arena, it has become need of the hour to provide reservation to women at every political level. It would be totally wrong to deny the fact that male leaders have led to number of developments at social, political, economic and global levels. But the most basic need of building of toilets for girl children in schools and colleges was put forward by a female only.
That is the difference between male and female ruling. Putting aside all other promises of the constitution makers which were laid down by them through the grand and noble vision of the Preamble such as equality, fraternity, liberty, justice, etc. Even if we totally ignore the usage of these above-mentioned characteristics of the constitution in Indian politics, then too the basic requirement that we are asking for is to build the sense of democracy at least.
Accordingly, the meaningful participation of women in national, local, and community leadership roles has become an important focus for global development policy. Still, some people may ask why it matters if women become political leaders or elected policymakers? Why does the world require more women’s political participation? The answer to all these questions is that the rational participation of women leads to tangible gains for democracy, including greater accountability and responsiveness to common people’s needs, increased ethnicity across parties, and a more sustainable future.
A research shows that, “whether a legislator is male or female, they have distinct impact on their policy priorities. There is also strong evidence that as more women are elected to office, there is a corollary increase in policy making that emphasizes quality of life and reflects the priorities of families, women, and ethnic and racial minorities.”
RESERVATION OF WOMEN IN INDIA AND ABROAD-
India secured 149th in the list of 193 countries ranked by the percentage of women as elected representatives in their national parliaments. This position was lagging behind after many of our neighboring countries such as Pakistan (20.2%), Bangladesh (20.7%) and Nepal (32.7%) and it dropped three positions since 2018. Though the agendas raised by political parties through their manifestos during election times seem very promising. But after the times of election pass, each and every party forgets about their words they had mentioned in their speeches and announcements.
All across the globe, there are only two countries who have more women than men in their parliaments- Cuba with 53.2% and Bolivia with 53.1%. Latin American and Caribbean nations also take the further four positions in the top 10 in the list of women elected policymakers- Mexico with 48.2%, Grenada with 46.7%, Nicaragua with 45.7% and Costa Rica with 45.6%. It has been practically proven that the countries who have more female representatives cope up with any unexpected or sudden problem more efficiently than those countries which have a greater number of male representatives in their parliaments.
During this time of corona pandemic, it has been observed that female ruled countries are doing very much better with this virus. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand has been largely successful in controlling the outbreak of covid-19. Germany, led by Angela Merkel, has had a far lower death rate than Britain, France, Italy or Spain. Finland ruled by Sanna Martin, has had fewer than 10% as many death rates as nearby Sweden.
So, these are some triumphant attempts of women rulers against the battle with corona virus. They have managed and controlled their nation far well than many renowned male leaders across the world, during these times. So, here, the need for representation of women in politics is clearly justified.
Despite of the continuous resistance faced by supporters of the Women Reservation Bill; they have managed to come a long way through. To highlight the fruitful side of the efforts of women in all of these years, I would like to mention that women’s representation in the Lok Sabha has increased from 11.3 percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2019. It would be absolutely delusional to think that women alone can achieve this target without the support of their colleague male members. If that was the case, then we would have achieved this many years ago. We need a proficient male personality who has clear cut view regarding the necessity of letting women participate in the national politics. That man would surely be called as the “MAN OF THE HISTORY”.
We read many articles in our regular newspapers about rape cases, sexual assaults, domestic violence, sexual harassments faced by women at their work places, etc. All of these criminal offences that are being practiced against women on the daily basis urge for the demand of participation of some other powerful women in politics who could stand for these victims with full-fledged power.
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