ON INTRODUCTION OF WOMENS RESERVATION BILL IN PARLIAMENT
23rd November 2006
Women’s organizations welcome the decision of the UPA-Left Coordination Committee to introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill in the current session of Parliament, as evidenced from the statement of the Prime Minister in this regard.
Yesterday, the women’s delegation that met the Lok Sabha Speaker Shri Somnath Chatterjee to urge him to expedite the Bill also received an encouraging response. He congratulated the women’s organizations for carrying on such a sustained struggle, and promised to do everything within his authority for the smooth passage of the Bill.
We urge the Government not to delay the Bill further by sending it to a Standing Committee. Since the same Bill has been through a Select Committee of Parliament, technically there is no need to do so.
In any case we demand that the process be time-bound so as to ensure that it may be adopted in this session itself.
AIDWA, NFIW, CWDS, JWP, YWCA, AIWC, GUILD OF SERVICE, FORCES
A JOINT RESOLUTION FOR 33% RESERVATION FOR WOMEN IN PARLIAMENT AND STATE ASSEMBLIES
We, along with other women’s organizations and groups, have been demanding the introduction and passing of the Bill for Reservation for women in Parliament and State Assemblies for over a decade now. During these ten years we along with others have made more than 100 representations and have been on several joint struggles including rallies, demonstrations, dharnas, etc.
The Common Minimum Programme of the UPA government had given an assurance on this account, which remains unfulfilled. We feel that to become really vibrant, democracies have to continually make spaces available to all marginalized and deprived sections. Greater efforts are needed to ensure opportunities for more representation to women, who make up half the population in the country.
It is a shame that India lags behind its neighbors in the matter of representation of women in parliament and state assemblies. India has only 8.2% representation of women in parliament, while the average percentage of women elected to State Assemblies during 2004, 2005 and 2006 is just 6.62 %. In comparison, Pakistan has 22% and Afghanistan 27.3 % women representatives. While Nepal has declared one - third seats for representation of women in the next election, China has more than 20 % women deputies in the National People’s Congress. 20 countries across the globe including low and middle - income countries have achieved a political representation of 30 % or more. Some examples of low and middle-income countries are South Africa (at 32.8% as of 2004), Rwanda (at 49% which is in the lead position in the global league) Mozambique(at 30%) and war-besieged Palestine at 30%. Compared to the great gains made by women in many countries of the world, our own claim to be the world’s largest democracy appears somewhat hollow.
India has a dismal record of an average of below 7 % representation of women during the past fifty years. We feel that on no account should there be any delay as reservation for women in parliament and state assemblies is the only way to ensure that women actually become MPs and MLAs and thereby guarantee a fair democratic process.
During the 1996 elections all major political parties supported 33% Reservation for seats in Parliament and State Assemblies. In September 1996, the United Front (Deve Gowda) Government, first introduced the Bill as the 81st Constitutional Amendment Bill, and the Bill was referred to the Joint Parliamentary Committee. After the submission of the report of the Parliamentary Committee in December 1996, the Bill was introduced by the NDA Government in the 12th Lok Sabha in June 1998 and then again in November 1999. It was brought to the House once in 2002, and twice in 2003. However, in spite of NDA having a majority in the Lok Sabha no effort was made to have the Bill passed.
Various proposals which have delayed the Bill like reservation in party lists, or increasing the seats in Parliament have already been discussed thread bare and rejected since they would not achieve the required representation of women.
In August 2006 women from different parts of the country assembled in Delhi for a dharna to demand the immediate passage of the Bill. The assembly included Ministers, MLAs, Presidents of Zilla Parishads/District Panchayats, Sarpanches and Grampanchayat members, eminent intellectuals, economists, social scientists, historians, teachers, professionals such as lawyers, doctors, journalists, artists, etc. all of whom have gathered to demand women’s representation in parliament through reservation of one third seats. During this dharna we met various ministers belonging to different parties including the RJD, TDP, etc. We have again been meeting the Prime Minister, Ms Sonia Gandhi and other Party leaders and Ministers and almost everyone has expressed support for the Bill.
We therefore feel that this is an opportune moment for the Bill to be passed and we appeal to all the Parties and Members of Parliament to unequivocally support the Bill for 33% Reservation for women. We demand that the Bill not only be introduced in the coming session of Parliament but also be debated and passed.
AIDWA, AIWC, CWDS, FORCES, GUILD OF SERVICE, JWP, NFIW, YWCA