Women lawmakers to pass a resolution demanding 33% reservation for women in Parliament

Indian Parliament
Presently, the presence of women in all elected bodies in India is less than 9 per cent. File photo

A toast was raised to the 15 women who were part of the 389-member Constituent Assembly at the two-day National Women Legislators's Conference that began at the Kerala Assembly complex on May 26.

These women freedom fighters from various parts of India formed just 3.86 per cent of the Constituent Assembly but still contributed heavily to the creation of a just and equitable Constitution.

Nonetheless, the speakers at the first session of the Conference, 'Constitution and Women's Rights', wanted one of the decisions of these 15 women overturned. They had looked down upon the idea of reservation for women. They said women did not need it. But the main speakers of the first session wanted the Conference to pass a resolution demanding 33% reservation for women in the Parliament and state assemblies.

“Perhaps these women thought that India would be just and fair to them,” said CPM politburo member Brinda Karat. The ball was set rolling by Gujarat's first woman Speaker and BJP leader, Dr Nimaben Acharya. “This conference should pass a resolution demanding 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and assemblies,” Dr Acharya said.

Presently, the presence of women in all elected bodies in India is less than 9 per cent. In the case of state assemblies, it is between 9-10 per cent. As for Lok Sabha, it is 15.3 per cent and Rajya Sabha it is 12 per cent.

Karat said the India that had emerged after 75 years of freedom was far different than the one the 15 women in the Constituent Assembly had dreamt of. "In terms of women representation, we are far below even the miserable global average of 25 per cent," Karat said. "Unless we have a law for 33 per cent reservation for women we will take another 75 years to get to even the 33 per cent mark," she said.

Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, the Lok Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu, pointed out the biggest irony of Indian democracy. "Men are sitting in the Parliament and assemblies and making laws for women, taking decisions for us. How fair is this? How can these bills be passed without hearing us? This is why we need 33 per cent reservation," Kanimozhi said.

She said it was also strange that reservation for women in elected bodies was the only law that the Parliament had failed to pass even though almost all political parties were for it.

All the speakers seemed to be on the same page on the issue. A BJP leader proposed the resolution and CPM and DMK members seconded it. Still, certain remarks by the speakers revealed entrenched political divisions.

Uttarakhand Speaker Ritu Khanduri Bhushan, for instance, held up the the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, which criminalised triple talaq, as a model legilsation that protected women's rights. The Act provides for imprisonment for a term up to three years and fine to the husband who practiced instant triple talaq.

Later when it was her turn to speak, Kanimozhi countered this. She said the bill was yet another example why it was important for women's voices to be heard in the Parliament. “It is the affected women who have to decide what is important for her. Should the man be sent to jail or should a mechanism be created for her proper maintenance? Now there is no space for such questions. These bills are passed without listening to women's concerns," Kanimozhi said.

The Uttarakhand Speaker's introductory quotes from the Gita and Manusmriti were also criticised. Rita Khanduri had referred to the writer of Manusmriti as “Maharaj Manu”. “Our Constitution is not linked to any religious texts,” Brinda Karat, who spoke after Khanduri, said. “In all religious texts you will find both pro- and grossly anti-women statements. But our Constitution is not coloured by any specific religion,” she said.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.