We are living in an era where slogans like, Bhartiya naari padey sab par bhaari, (An Indian woman is enough to tackle everyone) are quite common. Women these days are considered as an epitome of strength. With time, they have successfully taken over the professional, as well as the domestic world.
At a time, when women are becoming strong and independent, it seems peculiar that they have negligible participation in the parliament and the functioning of the government. Why is it so? Do those in power think that women aren’t capable enough to enter politics? Do they think that women can’t manage to work for the progress of our country?
I would ponder over these questions all the time, and luckily, I got a chance to have a conversation with Dr. Ranjana Kumari, who is a social activist. Dr Kumari is the Director of Centre for Social Research (CSR). The centre works for the well-being of women and also for promoting women empowerment. Dr. Kumari’s special emphasis is on the Women’s Reservation Bill, which she believes, if passed, would definitely have a positive impact on the miserable conditions of the majority of Indian women.
The Bill seeks to reserve 33.33% of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha, and in all the state legislative assemblies. It was introduced by the UPA-I government in May, 2008 and was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010. It lapsed as the Lok Sabha never voted on the bill.
Similar bills were introduced in 90’s but like the one introduced by the UPA-I government, they also lapsed due to the dissolution of their respective Lok Sabhas.
Having a woman representative for at least one term would be a very huge step towards the betterment of our country and it would also create socio-political awareness among women.
During my conversation with Dr. Kumari, I asked her some questions with regards to the Bill. According to her, the main reason behind the continuous lapsing lies in history itself. When the Bill was first introduced in 1996, women were not much active in politics. The education and literacy rate among women was comparatively low, and women had no freedom and confidence in speaking in public. Those who had the confidence were silenced by the society. She further added that there is a huge difference between the social conditions of modern-day women, and those of the 90’s. She believes that with time, people in power will understand the worth of women, and the Bill will definitely find its place in the Lok Sabha.
The Women’s Reservation Bill will have a very positive impact on the lives of women of this country. It will provide a strong voice to them. Another impact of this Bill would be the increase in women’s participation in politics. Currently, how many women politicians are seen? And out of these, how many are actually a part of the functioning government?
Very few! Mamata Banerjee is the lone Chief Minister of any of the states of India. Out of 29 states, only 1 state is under the governance of a woman.
When Indian women have already shown their excellence in sports, by clinching medals in Asian Games 2018, and Gold Coast CWG, then why not in politics?
More advantages of the Bill include better sanitation and health facilities for women, better provisions for their safety, their socio-economic conditions. Most importantly more women will become cognizant of their rights.
Some people find the Women’s Reservation Bill inappropriate or unimportant due to certain factors. One such argument is that the Bill would divert the attention from larger issues such as criminalisation of politics and inner party democracy. This Bill threatens the general category too, as the reservation for women and SC/ST together would be 55%, and this would decrease the majority of the general caste seats in the Parliament.
However, not only women but also other sects of the society will be benefitted through this Bill. Some believe that the Bill might be misused, which to some extent is true, but higher authorities will always be present to check on such matters.
The major aim of this Bill is not to overpower the male section, the only objective is the requirement of equality, which has been denied to women since the colonial era. It’s been established over and over again that all that women want is equality.
Coming back to my conversation with Dr. Ranjana Kumari, she stated that according to her, if women start raising their voices, and instead of working in small groups they unite and contribute for the cause, the Bill would be seen in a different light. On CSR’s website, I came across this #Timefor33Percent. I inquired her about it and she conveyed that the movement aims to collect and unite people in order to raise awareness of the Bill.
As this article moves towards the conclusion, it is crucial for us to understand that gender-equality is the need of the hour. We might overpower each other but unity and equality is the sole essence of democracy.