There has been a stoic silence from the hallowed quarters of the Modi government over the Women’s Reservation Bill, which provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state assemblies in Lok Sabha. It is no surprise then that India’s ranking on Global Gender Gap Index has slipped to 108; it can be attributed to the widening gender gap in political empowerment.
“With more than 50 years having passed since the nation’s first female prime minister came to power in 1966, maintaining its global top 20 ranking on the political empowerment sub-index will require India to make progress on this dimension with a new generation of female political leadership,” the report said.
Despite being a promoter of gender equity, India is yet to become a nation where women have proportional representation in politics. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been speaking about women’s empowerment, BJP is yet to table the bill in Lok Sabha, three years after the party came to power.
On September 20, Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remind him of the Women’s Reservation Bill that was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010. In the letter, Sonia Gandhi reminded him of the landmark Women’s Reservation Bill and asked him to pass the legislation, which she said has been languishing in Lok Sabha “for one reason or another”.
Assuring Modi of Congress support to the Bill, Sonia wrote, “I am writing to request you to take advantage of your majority in the Lok Sabha to now get the Women’s Reservation Bill passed in the Lower House as well. The Congress party has always and will continue to support this legislation, which will be a significant step forward in the empowerment of women.”
Speaking about the bill in 2010, BJP’s Arun Jaitley said he had a feeling of “being a party to history in the making” when he came to the house that day. Jaitley is now holding one of the most important positions in Modi government but has not been heard talking about fulfilling that “history”.
“Prime Minister always quotes the slogan of ‘beti bachao, beti padhao,” he should also advocate for “beti ko sadan me lao”, said Sushmita Dev, President, All India Mahila Congress. “It’s extremely worrying that while women represent half the population of our country they make a dismal 11 per cent of Parliament,” points out Dev.
“There are many issues that Parliament or Legislative Assemblies may vote on over the next few years that will disproportionately affect women: labour rights, minimum wages, security and privacy, just to name a few. I strongly believe that, among others, when these issues come up, the debates in the House will be best served if there are more female voices,” adds Dev.
A record was made in 2009 when 59 women were elected to the Lower House of Parliament. 59 out of 543 women MPs meant that 11 per cent women represented the Lok Sabha. That was the highest number of women MPs elected to the Parliament since Independence. In addition, Rajya Sabha saw a 10.6 per cent participation of women. In the 16th Lok Sabha, 61 women leaders have made their way to the Parliament.