WOMENS RESERVATION BILL: TO BE OR NOT TO BE

A time span starting from September 1996 to July 2008 is long enough to table, discuss and improve a Bill, which prima facie is for the benefit of a large section of the society. So, what is it that makes all section of politicians agree for one set of reservation (with regard to educational institutions) and shy away from another? What forces the majority of politician to play politics with respect to rights of women?

The Constitution through various provisions has provided for equality clause for protection and empowerment of women’s rights. Article 15(3) categorically empowers the State to make special provision for women and children. Women are entitled to enjoy economic, social, cultural and political rights without discrimination and on footing of equality in order to effectuate fundamental duty to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of enquiry and to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activities.

There are a number of international instrument supporting certain definite state measure for political development of women. Various provisions of CEDAW mention promotion of political rights of women, for instance, Article 1, Article 3 and Article 7. Article 7 discusses States Parties should take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country and, in particular, shall ensure to women, on equal terms with men.

The most important problem in the society as far as women is concerned is not about economical dependence or violation of their basic rights but the mind set of the people and society which leads to such aggravating situation. If women will be considered an equal part of the society, then the cases of dowry death and torture, sexual harassment, female foeticide, sati, unequal pay for equal work would automatically diminish. The fact that women will be on a seat of Parliament or state legislature, a place which is much coveted by most powerful people in the country will help the society in realising that women are one amongst equals.

Understanding the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008

The reservation is sought to be done at three level namely, Lok Sabha, State Legislature, and then at Rajya Sabha and State Councils. The Women’s Reservation Bill is formally titled as Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Act, 2008

Rajya Sabha:

As per Section 2(a), in Article 80 (2) after the word “seats”, the words “including those reserved for women” will be inserted. Article 80 (2) will then mean that the allocation of seats in the Council of States will be filled by representatives of the States and of the Union Territories (UTs) and will also include women representative from the reserved area in accordance with the Fourth Schedule. Further, the Clause (b) of Section 2 lays down that a proviso will be added to the Article 80(3) stating:

“Provided that not less than one-third of such members shall be women.”

Article 80(3) states that members nominated by President in Council of States will comprise of people having special knowledge and practical experience in the field of Literature, science, art and social service. Hence, by adding the above-mentioned proviso, then out of these experts nominated, one-third will have to be comprised of women. This will be great leap in promoting women to excel in various fields of arts and science.

Clause (3) of Article 171 lays down composition of members of legislative council and specifies the ratio of people inducted from various fields. Section 3 (a) adds a proviso to this clause and states that one-third of seats mentioned in Clause (3) will be reserved for women. Clause (5) of Article 171 discusses members nominated by the Governor and reiterates that they should have special knowledge and experience in the field of Literature, science, art and social service. Again, Clause (b) of Section 3 adds a proviso to the Clause and states that one-third of seats mentioned in Clause (5) will be reserved for women.

Lok Sabha:

As per Section 4 of the Act the words “Scheduled Castes” in Article 239AA will be substituted by “Scheduled Castes and the women”. Section 5 states that after Article 330, another Article 330A and Article 330 B will be inserted. The Article 330 A will then lay down following points:

o Seats will be reserved for women in Lok Sabha. o Clause 2 of Article 330 provides for reservation of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. So, one-third seat of this reserved category will be reserved for women. o In case if there is only one seat reserved for SC/STs in a state or union territory then out of the three general elections for the first election the seat will be reserved for SC/ST woman. o In case if there are two seats reserved for SC/STs in a state or union territory then out of the three general elections for the first two elections the seat will be reserved for SC/ST woman in such a manner that the same constituency will not be repeated. For the third general election no seat will be reserved for SC/ST woman. o One-third of total number of seats of Parliament, state legislatures and UT will be filled by woman including SC/ST woman in rotation as Parliament may determine. o In case there is only one seat of a general category for any state or UT then once out of three general elections the seat will be reserved for woman. o In case there are two seats of a general category for any state or UT then twice out of three general elections the seat will be reserved for woman in such a manner that the same constituency will not be repeated. For the third general election no seat will be reserved for woman. o Article 330 B authorises Parliament to determine the procedure for allocation of seats for women.

As per Section 6 of the Act, a proviso will be added to Article 331 that once out of three general elections the seat will be reserved for woman of Anglo-Indian community. For the third general election no seat will be reserved for woman.

State Legislature:

Section 7 discusses about inserting Article 332A after Article 332. Article 332 A states similar provisions as mentioned under Article 330A but Article 332 A is in context of state legislatures and Article 330A was in context of Parliament. Similarly, Section 8 is similar to Section 6 and inserts a proviso in Article 333 in context of reservation of seats in state for Anglo-Indian women.

Finally, Section 9 states provision to insert Article 334A and 334B after Article 334. Article 334A states that all the provisions will cease to have an effect after fifteen years of the commencement of the Act.

Worldview

Almost half of the total number of countries over the world has subscribed to some or the other form of reservation for women. As per the data provided under a joint project of International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) and Stockholm University there are about fifteen countries that provides for constitutional quotas for national parliaments. The following tables will give a clear picture of various laws applicable to implement quota for women at national level.  

Countries with Constitutional Quota for Women in National Parliaments

 

Afghanistan

France

Nepal

Taiwan (UN: Province of China)

Argentina

Guyana

Rwanda

Tanzania (United Republic of)

Bangladesh

Iraq

Serbia

Uganda

Burundi

Kenya

Somalia

Total Countries 15

Countries with Election Law Quota Regulation for Women in National Parliament

China

Jordan

Panama

Korea, Dem. People's Republic of

Costa Rica

Liberia

Paraguay

Korea, Republic of

Djibouti

Macedonia

Peru

Palestinian Territory, Occupied

Iraq

Mauritania

Philipines

Tanzania, United Republic of

Ecuador

Mexico

Serbia

Dominican Republic

Eritrea

Nepal

Slovenia

Rwanda

France

Niger

Spain

Uzbekistan

Honduras

Pakistan

Sudan

Indonesia

Portugal

Uganda

Total countries: 43

Conclusion

The Women’s Reservation Bill is being opposed tooth and nail as the male section of the society feels threatened that their authority is being swapped and subjugated. The chances of the Bill being passed is remote as passing of the Bill is almost equated with giving up on their seats. The objections now raised are that there is no representation of OBCs women in the Bill. There is already a substantial number of OBCs members in Parliament and any further representation can come through party regulations. However, the Bill when passed will be a good compensation to women for being made to be non-existent in the political sphere for as long as our Constitution has been in existence and for as long as one can trace the life of mankind.

 

Published in Constitutional Law
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