What is the bill all about?
The women’s reservation bill, also known as Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, that was introduced and unanimously passed by Lok Sabha in the newly built Sansad Bhavan on 21st September, 2023 appears to be a historic moment for India.
It is not the first time that such a bill was introduced; a similar bill was introduced in 1996 and after several attempts got approved in Rajya Sabha but failed to get approval in Lok Sabha due to lack of political consensus. However, after 27 years, this 128th Amendment Bill got a final approval from both Lok and Rajya Sabha and is just left to be signed by the president to be enacted as a law.
This bill aims to provide women with a fair share in India’s political seats, as this bill confirms the reservation of 33% seats in Lok Sabha and State assemblies for women. A similar rule for setting aside seats for women in SC and ST communities will also be implemented.This reservation will continue till 15 years along with a change in reserved seats after every big election, so that everyone gets a fair chance of representation in the parliament.
Status of women in India at present
The status of women in today’s time when it comes to political representation is very evident from the statistics;women just occupy 82 out of 550 seats in Lok Sabha and only 31 out of 250 seats in Rajya Sabha.
Since India’s independence in 1947, it has had only one woman prime minister and two female presidents. It is enough to depict the dismal position that women have in political participation.
Different states of India also depict this harsh reality, Gujarat with 182 members in parliament had just 8% of contenders who were women and Himachal Pradesh whose voting population is composed of 50% of women also has 67 male representatives and only one female representative.
India stands at 144th position among 193 nations with regards to women’s inclusion in parliamentary representation which further makes this step by the government a need of the hour.
How will this bill change the dynamics of Democracy ?
This bill offers a significant step towards acquiring gender equality and encouraging women to take up more active roles in society by putting a greater focus on addressing the needs and issues that affect women.
This bill has been introduced at a point of time where women in India have been engaged as voters like never before and studies have shown that women tend to vote differently than men, as women vote for a change and men vote only for status quo.
The landmark bill also comes months before India’s general elections of 2024 where PM Modi will try to seek his third term in power. It therefore comes as a strong move in shaping the future of the nation.
A long way to go before this bill becomes a reality
Although this bill has acquired approval, its implementation remains subject to delimitation exercises which includes a process of creating boundaries of constituencies for elected bodies based on population in the most recent census. Experts are saying that the delimitation exercise will be possible only after the census process happens, which is scheduled to take place in 2026. Hence, it's unlikely that implementation of this bill as a law will take place before 2029.
It is expected from the government that this bill should not be just a symbolic effort for the sake of doing or winning elections; rather, it must prove to be a genuine one because in a country like India where women got voting rights at the very beginning, their political representation has been limited for far too long..