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Posted at: Jul 14, 2018, 4:48 PM; last updated: Jul 14, 2018, 4:48 PM (IST)

Woman groups demand passage of long pending Women’s Reservation Bill

Woman groups demand passage of long pending Women’s Reservation Bill
The 22-year journey of the Women’s Reservation Bill hit several roadblocks before it cleared the first legislative barrier in 2010.

Ananya Panda
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 14

Woman groups from across the country want the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) passed in the monsoon session of Parliament that begins next week, calling it Modi government’s “last chance” to give women more political representation in legislature.

Activists who have been struggling to have more women in Parliament and state legislatures say they were disappointed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government—which prides itself in furthering women’s empowerment—for not having pushed their cause. A women’s charter of demand released on Friday said that the Bill was part of the BJP’s 2014 election manifesto, which promised “not 33 but 50 percent reservation—an assurance that has turned out to be an empty “rhetoric” so far. 

 “The Women’s Reservation Bill seems to have completely disappeared from the agenda of the present NDA government. The BJP had included it in its poll manifesto in 2014 before it came to power in May but four years later, the reality is that this Bill never got tabled in Parliament,” said Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research here. “It is now or never. If the current government doesn’t do it, nobody will.”

The 22-year journey of the Women’s Reservation Bill hit several roadblocks before it cleared the first legislative barrier in 2010. Since, the Bill has met with opposition from several male parliamentarians, leaving its fate uncertain.

India has a poor record of women’s representation in legislature. The Inter-Parliamentary and UN Women Report-2017 ranked India abysmally low in comparison to many of its neighbours, including Nepal (32.8 per cent representation of women in the legislative Parliament), Bangladesh (20 per cent representation of women in Parliament). Even east African Rwanda did better, with 60 per cent women in politics.

This year’s Economic Survey of India painted a grim picture about marginalisation of women in politics despite making up for 49 per cent of the country’s population. Data shows that only 11.8 per cent of members of parliament in Lok Sabha—65 of 543 members— are women. Rajya Sabha does only marginally better: 31 of its 243 MPs are female (some 12 per cent).

Together, both houses of Parliament have only 96 woman, making India 103rd country in women’s representation in the latest study on women in parliament. The National Alliance for Women’s Reservation Bill, an umbrella body, has also initiated a letter campaign, and as already sent more than 5000 letters to the Prime Minister supporting the Bill.

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