• Friday, May 24, 2024

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Modi government passes bill to reserve women seats in parliament, states: What it means

Prime minister Narendra Modi said India is moving away from “women-led development” and towards “women’s development” in his appraisal of New India’s growth story.

Prime minister Narendra Modi being felicitated by women parliamentarians on the passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill in both houses of Parliament, in New Delhi on September 22, 2023. (ANI Photo/Shrikant Singh)

By: Prof Dr. Prem Lal Joshi

THE Narendra Modi government of India last week passed the “Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023” (formerly known as the Women Reservation Bill) in both Houses of the parliament. It was a historic development, particularly given the fact that successive governments failed to make the initiative successful because of various roadblocks. The step has implications for the Indian democratic system and signifies a growing influence of Indian women at the highest levels of the political system.

In the Indian context, where women make up nearly 50 per cent of the population and more than 60 per cent of the labour force, their rapid empowerment is a crucial component to achieving gender equality, which occurs when men and women have equal authority and access to opportunities in areas such as politics, education, economic activity, media, healthcare and self-growth, among others.

Prime minister Narendra Modi said India is moving away from “women-led development” and towards “women’s development” in his appraisal of New India’s growth story.

In India, women make up more than half of the electorate. Compared to men, they vote more frequently, run for public office, and join political parties at lower levels. The two pillars of women’s political participation are voting and political activism.

However, at the moment, they only make up 15 per cent of the Lok Sabha or the Lower House of the Indian parliament (78 out of 543) and 14 per cent of the Rajya Sabha or the Upper House, which is a low percentage.

Women’s rights organisations pushed for the bill to be passed in the 2014 winter session of Parliament since the general elections were approaching and there was a chance for a new political landscape in the nation. In New Delhi, a roundtable discussion on advocacy tactics for the Women’s Reservation Bill’s passing was held.

Women must have a voice if we are to see greater growth and significant change. The introduction of this measure is a significant step forward in the history of the largest democracy in the world in terms of enhancing the role of women in Indian politics.

The “Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023” was passed by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha with a resounding majority, demonstrating the Modi government’s great success. During the special session of Parliament on September 19, 2023, the bill was presented in the Lok Sabha. Thirty-three percent of the seats in the state and federal legislative bodies would be reserved for women under this proposal.

The law has been pending since 1996 and was presented to the Lok Sabha four times, but it was never passed due to insufficient support from voters and hostility from various political parties.

It was finally passed on September 21, 2023, making the occasion a historic one.

It is likely that women’s reservations won’t be put into effect until some time before the 2029 general elections, after the completion of the twin processes of census and delimitation. Therefore, it is meant to be used to obtain electoral support not only in 2024 but most likely even in 2029. The worst aspect of the bill is its rotating membership, as elected officials would have little motivation to expand and enhance their constituency.

The possible implications of implementing the bill are:

1. More involvement in decision-making: Women’s empowerment could be significantly impacted by the decision-making role played by women in politics. The Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies have a 33 percent seat reservation for women to improve the representation of women in politics. To provide women with an additional opportunity to participate in decision-making processes, more reservation policies could be put into place.

2. Formulating policy: It is believed that women have made a significant contribution to Indian history and culture. In all jobs, women have used their immense power and decisiveness to influence narratives. Experience has proven that women make more significant contributions to the creation of policy. For quick socio-economic growth, women’s roles and contributions in the formulation of national policies are essential. India requires more female effective leaders. One gender cannot control the process of formulating policies.

3. Increasing the position, standing, and well-being of women in society: Political reservation for women serves as a defence of democracy itself and enhances the status, standing, and well-being of women in society by enabling them to effectively address societal issues. Reservations give women the chance to take part in the creation of their country and the advancement of society.

4: Further improving women’s empowerment: Without enough representation for women in the political system, women’s empowerment will not be achievable. By establishing the provision for the maximum number of women to link and associate with political activities even at the lowest level of political action, this purpose should be achieved at the desired level.

5. Improvement in international ranking: According to the United Nations’s Human Development Index, India is ranked 135th out of 147 countries in terms of the empowerment of women. When this bill is put into effect, it is anticipated that India will rise faster on the index measuring women’s empowerment.

6. Achievement of gender equality: It reflects a significant turning point for gender equality, particularly with regards to women’s political leadership.

7. Strong women empowerment: Only 26.7 per cent of parliamentary seats and 35.5 per cent of municipal government jobs are now held by women globally. With this quota, which reserves 33 per cent of seats for women, India will overtake the other 64 nations with designated seats for women in their national legislatures. A critical mass of 33 per cent female representation in the parliament is typically believed to produce favourable results for women’s empowerment.

8. Double digit economic growth: According to experts, the nation’s economic growth rate would approach double digits if women’s engagement in political processes and policy levels were greatly expanded. Any industry is more likely to improve if there are more women involved in decision-making.

Former accounting professor Dr. Prem Lal Joshi regularly contributes to India Weekly. The pieces published here reflect the author’s personal opinions. He can be reached at [email protected].

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