Table of Contents
THE CONTEXT: Fielding few women candidates in the Assembly elections even after a law was enacted this year is a reflection of the lack of political commitment in ensuring greater women’s empowerment.
THE POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN
- In any country, the political empowerment of women is generally possible with two routes:
- The first is to reserve seats for women in the legislature by means of legislation.
- The second is to have provision for quotas for women candidates within political parties while nominating candidates.
- There are examples for both routes that have been adopted in various countries. Neighbouring Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan have opted for the legislative route and are faring better in terms of representation of women in their legislatures.
- For example, in Pakistan, 17% seats are reserved for women in its national assembly; Bangladesh has reserved 50 out of 350 seats in its Jatiya Sansad and Nepal has reserved 33% of the total seats for women.
- Statistics show that there is an improvement in the number of women legislators being elected crossing the percentage of seats reserved for women which is a sign of women’s political empowerment in one way or the other.
THE WORLD AND INDIA
No laws mandating quotas for women: There are many countries where there are no laws mandating quotas for women, but political parties are required to give a certain percentage of tickets to women candidates.
- Australia (38%), Canada (31%), South Africa (45%), and Sweden (46%) have no legislatively backed quotas in their Parliament, yet most of these countries have more than 30% women in their respective Parliament.
Women’s political representation in India: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has chosen the quota route for the political empowerment of women by enacting the Constitution (One Hundred and Sixth Amendment) Act of 2023.
- It is considered a milestone in terms of women empowerment (reserving by law 33% seats in State Assemblies and Parliament ).
- The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha with a huge majority, only two Members opposing the Bill.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WOMEN RESERVATION ACT 2023
Reservation for Women: The act reserves one-third of the total seats in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women. This reservation will apply to both general and reserved seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) .
Rotation of Seats: The reserved seats for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise, ensuring that different constituencies get a chance to have women representatives.
Commencement of Reservation: The reservation will come into effect after the next census is conducted and delimitation is completed.
Duration of Reservation: The reservation will initially be valid for 15 years. However, Parliament can extend it beyond this period if it deems necessary.
Empowering Women: The act aims to increase the representation of women in India’s political sphere, empowering them to participate in decision-making processes and address issues that affect women’s lives.
Promoting Gender Equality: The reservation is seen as a step towards achieving gender equality in India’s political system, ensuring that women have a voice and equal representation in the legislative bodies.
Enhancing Social Justice: The act aligns with India’s commitment to social justice and aims to address the historical underrepresentation of women in politics.
Strengthening Democracy: By increasing women’s participation in politics, the act is expected to strengthen India’s democracy and make it more inclusive and representative of its diverse population.
Ticket distribution for Assembly elections: No political party has reached even the 15% mark in giving tickets to women candidates, far less than the mandated 33%. It is obvious that political parties are more interested in viewing women as voters than encouraging and empowering them as legislators.
Linkage with the new delimitation: Linkage with the new delimitation which will be done after 2026, we can say that the law looks good only on paper. In spite of not having any law, regional parties such as the TMC (Trinamool Congress is an Indian political party that is mainly influential in the state of West Bengal) have fielded candidates successfully and won electoral battles.
Immediate implementation: The reservation is proposed to be implemented after a new census is published and the delimitation exercise is completed which may take time longer than expected. In this case there is a need to have immediate implementation for its effective result.
Innovative move: In the 2022 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the Congress party had reserved 40% of seats for women which was a bold and innovative move in the Indian political arena.
- In Assembly elections in Odisha (2019) and West Bengal (2021), fielded more female candidates and won the electoral battle. The TMC’s tickets to 46 women candidates, resulted in 32 candidates winning.
More inclusivity: There should be sub quota for reservation of OBC as well to have inclusive political representation of women from marginalized strata of society.
Extend reservation to Rajya Sabha: The report examining the 1996 women’s reservation Bill recommended reservation be extended to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils as well to have an overall holistic growth.
The initiative of enacting the Women Reservation Act, 2023 is a commendable move by the parliamentarians of the day. However, not having an adequate number of tickets to women candidates even after a law has been enacted (though it will come into effect by 2029) does not send out a positive signal about political commitment to ensure women’s political empowerment.
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS:
Q.1) Is the National Commission for Women able to strategize and tackle the problems that women face at both public and private spheres? Give reasons in support of your answer. (2017)
Q.2) The reservation of seats for women in the institution of local self-government has had a limited impact on the patriarchal character of the Indian political process”. Comment. (2019)
MAINS PRACTICE QUESTION:
Q) The initiative of enacting the Women Reservation Act, 2023 is a commendable move by the parliamentarians of the day. Examine the concerns regarding its feasibility, desirability, and implications.Spread the Word