In a historic move that signals progress for gender equality in Indian politics, the Lok Sabha, with a resounding 454 votes, came together in an unprecedented display of unity between the Center and the Opposition to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill.
This landmark legislation, which allocates 33% of seats in both state and federal legislatures to women, received the green light from the Lok Sabha, marking a significant step toward empowering women in the country’s political landscape.
The crucial debate on the Women’s Reservation Bill took center stage on the third day of an extraordinary session of Parliament. Meanwhile, in the Rajya Sabha, discussions revolved around India’s space program, with a focus on the successful soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the moon. Leading the discussion in the Lok Sabha was none other than the esteemed Senior Congresswoman, Sonia Gandhi, while MP Nishikant Dubey from the BJP was the first member to voice his opinion.
One point of contention raised by opposition MPs was the conditional nature of the women’s reservation suggested by the Bill, hinging on the conclusion of a delimitation exercise, the timing of which remains undecided. Many voices within the Parliament called for its immediate implementation, starting as early as the 2024 elections. BJP MPs, on the other hand, highlighted that while previous administrations had introduced similar laws for women’s reservation, none had successfully made it into law.
As a significant development in Indian politics, the Lok Sabha Secretariat officially recognized the new parliamentary structure as the Indian Parliament House, leading to the relocation of Parliament on September 19. The previous structure will now be referred to as “Samvidhan Sadhan.” In this new parliamentary setting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi implored lawmakers to unanimously endorse the women’s reservation bill during the inaugural session.
The passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill through the Lok Sabha with an impressive 454 votes signifies a remarkable shift in the country’s political landscape. This groundbreaking legislation, known as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, mandates that women be allotted 33% of the seats in the Lower House of Parliament and state legislative assemblies. However, it’s important to note that full implementation of this law may still be years away, as vocal Opposition leaders have pointed out.
Following the vote, Speaker Om Birla announced, “The proposal has been passed with more than a two-thirds majority of the members present in the house.” Out of the members present, only two abstained from voting, while 454 voted in favor. For this measure to become law, it must pass through the upper chamber of the parliament and receive approval from at least half of the state assemblies across India.
It is worth mentioning that this legislative proposal has faced significant hurdles in the past, failing to pass six times since its initial submission in 1996, often due to staunch opposition from MPs. As of now, India only has 104 women MPs out of nearly 800, according to official statistics.
The road to the full implementation of this quota system will largely depend on India’s 2021 census, which has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Opposition leaders have criticized the bill, labeling it an electoral “jumla” designed to capture headlines today. Some lawmakers have also raised concerns about the absence of reservations for Muslim communities or Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Addressing these concerns, Home Minister Amit Shah stated in Lok Sabha, “Some individuals on social media are suggesting that this measure shouldn’t be supported since Muslims and OBCs do not have a reservation.
Will reservations take place sooner if you don’t support this bill?
At least a guarantee will be made if you support this legislation.”
While there is no specific start date set for the implementation of women’s reservation, it is expected to follow the census and delimitation process. Home Minister Amit Shah assured the Lok Sabha that women would have a more substantial presence in Parliament thanks to the upcoming census and delimitation operations. This move toward gender equality in Indian politics is poised to reshape the nation’s legislative landscape in the years to come.