Women Reservation Bill in India: An analysis

The Women Reservation Bill, a much long awaited and controversial Bill allocating 33% of seats in LokSabha and Legislative Assemblies to women, finally fizzled out. Looking back on it we can now discuss whether the Bill was really significant politically and socially or was it just another ornamental gesture designed to please the women’s organizations and MP’s?
I personally agree the later view. It is not that I do not believe in female empowerment. Being a woman I strongly support upliftment of the female sex especially the Indian rural women. But I don’t think that the Bill can actually achieve its ideological aim.
Politics is a field where your worth is tested every moment.
Only women who have it in them to reach the top rung by their own efforts are worthy of the posts they occupy. Neither do we need a female leader who uses her family name, not even leaving her dead husband’s memory nor do we want an illiterate buffoon for whom the transition from a housewife to a CM is as easy as transition from the kitchen to her Pati Parmeshwar’s bedroom.
In the villages of Haryana and elsewhere, male relatives rule in the name of women elected to Panchayats and Parishads. A disguised version of this scenario prevails at the national level too. Politics in India has always been a male bastion and we require dynamic women leaders to make inroads into this system. If Kiran Bedi had been cuddled and pampered by the
IPS she would not have made such an excellent officer. Rather than as a concession, let us women prove our worth and obtain our posts honestly. Self voiced women like Mamta Banerjee and Sushma Swaraj are the need of the day, not a Rabri Devi or Lakshmi Parvathi who wears a mantle of their husband’s identities. We don’t want pampered or protected ladies of the court, we want women of substance Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved.”
The number of women in politics is a critical factor in the governance of a country. In developing countries like India,  arginalization of women from the government, this plays a pivotal role in social and economic power structures, results in gender discrimination and violation of even the most of the basic human rights.

Analysis of Past, present and Future of Women Reservation Bill:

Yesterday:

Despite active participation by women during the Freedom Struggle, the sixties & seventies saw a marked decline in female participation in active politics, in terms of both quality and quantity. This, when India boasted a strong , charismatic lady Prime Minister , and women were making their mark in various other fields.
Part reason for this malaise was the increased criminalization and communalization of politics. Violence towards women, sexual harassment and victimization were further deterrents. However, if you ask me, women need to enter politics in order to change their subordinate social and economic status.
Their active participation motivates the political structure to be more humane in its perception of the weak and downtrodden segments of society. It would also clean up the polity, reducing the current trend of criminal, communal and caste-based politics.
The late Rajiv Gandhi was a staunch advocate and champion of Women’s Rights; particularly for the reservation of seats for women.In 1989 his government introduced the Bill seeking 33.3 % reservation of seats for women in Panchayats and Municipal Bodies, the very grassroots of our political system. 1992 saw the Bill taking concrete shape as the 73rd Amendment to the
Constitution. This Bill has ensured that over a million women sit as elected representatives in local bodies. This participation of women at the very grassroot level is the first stage in the empowerment of women. It gives them an identity, a voice to speak with, and a forum to be heard in.
The empowerment of these rural women has provided their small communities with health and child care services, educational opportunities, drinking water, sanitation, information about legal rights, and access to legal aid.
Any change in the status quo, however, increases the threat perception in the male bastions.When women politicians like BJP firebrand Sushma Swaraj , AIADMK supremo Jayalalitha, CPI stalwart Geeta Mukherjee and the frenetic Mamata Banerjee united, cutting across party lines to ensure the passage of the Women Reservation Bill in Parliament guaranteeing 33 % reservation for women candidates , the alarm bells rang loud and clear in the hearts and minds of certain factions of male politicians who converged across party divides and caste loyalties to defeat the Bill.
The Indian Male, fragile, with a very high threat perception cut across Caste and Party differences to ensure the Bill never made it. Pandemonium and chaos in Parliament took precedence over debates and discussions.
The BJP & Congress, advocates of the Bill, watched helpless as more and more party members switched over to the other side, specially when the Joint Committee of Parliament refused to allow sub-quotas within the 33 % on caste basis.
To quote the late Geeta Mukherjee, “the males of the world united”. Caste and communal politics triumphed over gender empowerment.

Today:
And so the Women Reservation Bill gathers dust in the backrooms of Parliament, one more amongst other “deferred” Bills.
The question that comes up repeatedly is whether women need a quota. Though small in number, women politicians today have made a significant impact. Look around you and you’ll agree. The point is, would reservation breed complacency? Would it be a crutch, a helping hand, a push-up from the menfolk?
The quota system of reservation in educational institutions and government jobs has been reduced to an excuse to encourage and abet inefficiency and incompetence. Would it work for women? The answer is emphatically YES! – Because past experience shows it works. Countries such as Finland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark & the Netherlands have long had a fixed party-based quota system for women. Today in these countries, equal participation is the mantra that works, and female legislators have positively altered the nature of politics, making substantial and enduring contributions.

Tomorrow:
A quota for women would ensure the rise of new talent. Regressive communities would be forced to educate and empower their women so as to ensure adequate representation. A time-bound framework would accelerate the advent of women in active politics, which in turn would lead to lowered levels of gender discrimination, both socially and economically.
The women of India fight a long and lonely battle – one that is waged on many fronts. They can do with all the help that they can get, and the Women Reservation Bill was a step in the right direction-one that will lead to empowerment among the future generation of women. Isn’t that the ultimate destination?
Without the active participation of women and the incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality,development and peace cannot be achieved.”

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