25 Years Of Women’s Reservation Bill
PASS IT NOW
We, the women from several organizations working for women’s rights in India, demand that the 33% Women’s Reservation Bill, first introduced on 12 September 1996, 25 years ago, be passed in the Lok Sabha in the very next session of Parliament. It is the ruling political parties that have conspired in this unconscionable 25-year-long delay. Today, the BJP has an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and the main Opposition party is the Congress; both these parties have said on record that they support this Bill. There is therefore no possible hurdle to the passage of this Bill. It must be tabled and put to a vote without any further delay.
The passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2010 was a significant step but it is now more than 11 years since it is waiting to be tabled in Lok Sabha. It cannot become law unless it is passed in the Lok Sabha and is endorsed by at least 15 state assemblies.
Mandatory reservations for women in Panchayats and Local Bodies facilitated the entry of lakhs of women in villages, small towns and cities, into the political arena. As a result, a large number of women had the opportunity for the first time to enter the public sphere from which they had been absent. Today, women are actively carrying out their responsibilities as Sarpanchs, Panchayat members, BDC members, ZP Chairpersons and members, Town Area Chairpersons, Mayors and Councillors in the States of India. They have faced tremendous odds to enter the electoral fray and many of them are role models for all women. This has brought many important women’s issues on the agenda of Panchayats and local bodies. This positive experience needs to be strengthened and extended further.
Successive Governments have stalled the Bill for the last 25 years on some pretext or the other. The Modi government has promised not-only-33%-we-shall-give-50%, but this also turned out to be a mere jumla. Prominent BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, the present Chief Minister of UP, wrote an article quoting the Manusmriti prescription that women must never be left free and must always be under the control of a man, to attack women’s reservations.
The Government’s pretext for not putting the Bill to a vote is a “lack of consensus”. Why, may we ask, do they single out a Bill pertaining to women’s rights in decision making bodies? Why did they pass the contentious Labour Code and the 3 Agricutural Laws without any consensus?
We call upon all political parties in parliament to come together and ensure the smooth passage of the 33% women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha without delay. We are committed to the inclusion of marginalized communities - SC/ST, OBC and LBTQ - within 33% reservation. We appeal to all forces opposing the bill to shed their fears and support the cause of women’s rights and equality in our country. And we demand of this government to table the Bill in Lok Sabha and put it to vote.
We thank the young people who have come out in numbers across the states to express their solidarity for this cause. In particular we thank graphic designers Aritry Das, Ashutosh Bhardwaj, Shanmukh, Pervez Rajan, Vanshika Babbar, Uttam Ghosh, Ann Dominic, Sirawon Khathing, Neha Ramesh, Chris Fritz, Samara Nicholas, Hyunseok Kim, Kiran, Roshan Eddy, Srivastava, Yabes, Prakhar Srivastava, Zorameni, Bijit Barat, Michelle Mall and Saumya who have designed special posters to mark the 25th year of the women’s struggle to get 33% reservation in Parliament and assemblies.
Seema Joshi/ Madhuri Varshney
Dr Syeda Hameed