Political empowerment of women is recognized as a vital tool for addressing gender inequality and discrimination. The Women’s Reservation Bill aims to address this by proposing significant changes in the Indian political landscape.
Key Features of Women Reservation Bill
- Reservation Percentage: The bill proposes a 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies of State and the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
- Inclusive Reservation: Similar reservation will also be provided within the seats reserved for SC (Scheduled Castes) and ST (Scheduled Tribes).
- Duration: The reservation is set to continue for 15 years.
- Rotation of Seats: Seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise.
The Legislative Process
For the Women’s Reservation Bill to become a law, it needs to pass through several stages:
- Parliament Approval: Both houses of Parliament must pass the Bill by a special majority.
- State Ratification: According to Article 368 of the Constitution, the Constitution Amendment Bill requires ratification by at least 50% of the States since it affects their rights.
- Panchayats and Municipalities: Women’s reservation in Panchayats and Municipalities was introduced through constitutional amendments in 1992.
- Previous Attempts: Several bills aiming to reserve seats for women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies were introduced in the past, including the Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill in 1996 and the Constitution (85th Amendment) Bill in 1999. These attempts, however, did not succeed due to various reasons, including a lack of consensus among political parties.
- Successful Passage: The Women’s Reservation Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 during the tenure of the Manmohan Singh government. However, it lapsed in the Lok Sabha due to dissolution.
- Parliament Representation: The bill is expected to significantly increase the number of women in both the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
- Greater Impact in States: While the Lok Sabha will see a rise in female members, the impact will be more pronounced in State Assemblies.
The bill stipulates that the reservation will come into effect after a delimitation exercise, based on the first census conducted after the Constitution (128th Amendment) Act 2023. However, the timing of the census and delimitation exercise is currently uncertain. Implementation is unlikely before 2029.
Passing the Women Reservation Bill
Constitution Amendment Bills must be passed in each House of Parliament by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of the House “present and voting.” Since most political parties support the Bill, its passage is expected to proceed smoothly in Parliament and across States and Union Territories.