The Women’s Reservation Bill
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The Women’s Reservation Bill [The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill] is one of the longest pending legislations in the Indian Parliament. The Bill seeks to reserve 33.33 per cent seats in the Lok Sabha or the Lower House of Indian Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies for women, in accordance with the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments which reserved the same percentage of seats for women in rural and urban local bodies respectively. The Bill has been introduced in the Indian Parliament several times since its initial launch in 1996, but however the status of the bill remains undecided primarily due to lack of political consensus.
After a long battle, the Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the Upper House of Indian Parliament) on 9th March 2010 amidst stiff resistance from some political parties. It is yet to be tabled in the Lok Sabha or the House of the People.
The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by the Parliament.
One third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies.
Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the States or Union Territories.
Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
The report examining the 1996 Women’s Reservation Bill recommended that reservation be provided for women of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) once the Constitution was amended to allow for reservation for OBCs. It also recommended that reservation be extended to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils. Neither of these recommendations has been incorporated in the Bill.
The Women’s Reservation Bill is an extremely important piece of legislation that has the capacity to change the structure of Indian politics. It is essential that the bill doesn’t get lost in transition between the two houses, or women in India will never be able to realize the dream of true gender equality.
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