The Discussion of Women’s reservation should occupy the mainstream to challenge patriarchy and deal with the society. Comment.
The year 2019 saw the highest number of women MPs in Lok Sabha, which is a mere 14%. It is below the already low global average of 24%. The Inter-Parliamentary Union Report shows that India fares poorer than countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
The Women’s Reservation Bill was first introduced in the Parliament in 1996 and subsequently in 1998, 1999 and 2008, but all the four times, the bill lapsed upon the dissolution of the house. A study of the Constituent assemble debates provides the facts when the issue of women’s reservation was raised and when it was rejected. Firstly, the Constituent Assemble lacked the female support for it. With British spending years dividing the Indian society on the basis of religion, caste, ethnicity, the Government of India Act, 1935 attempted to further deepen the divided via extending separate electorates for women. It lead to fears of widespread disruption of the entire framework of society.
If women continued to ask for reservation they would have been casted as divisive, for it was a time when India had to remain united. With this burden, the women did not push for it.
The view of the male members that see women as incapable to hold positions is based on the threat perceived by them. Even a staunch supporter of women’s empowerment like Dr BR Ambedkar, did not insist on women’s reservation. Seventy years later, women continue to be underrepresented. Women lack the traditional money and muscle power, which play an integral role in securing electoral victories. Women fare poorly in both the departments with the economic empowerment of women in India still at nascent stage. Another factor is the reluctance of political parties to provide tickets to women candidates. Majority of female candidates contest as independents or receive tickets from smaller parties.
While one-third of reservation of women in panchayats and urban local bodies is a welcome move, women’s reservation need a serious deliberation before formulating a comprehensive legislation.