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Should There Be Reservation For Women In The Parliament?

The issue of giving reservation to women in Parliament continues to linger on session after session, with no consensus being reached, while the opinion continues to be divided over the bill. It remained a non-starter through seven Lok Sabhas, from 1996 onwards. In 1952, the women representation was 4.4% and after fifty years, it is 8.8%. It is far below the world average of around 15%. In the present Lok Sabha, only 44 MPs are women, i.e. less than 10%. As per the report of Inter-Parliamentary Union on June 30, 2005, India ranks 134th among 183 countries in terms of percentage of women legislatures in the Parliament. Those who are in favour of reservation for women in Parliament argue that.. * The basic premise of giving reservation to any section of society is positive discrimination, which implies granting greater benefits to those sections that due to certain social and historical circumstances are not at par with rest of the society. To reap the benefits of equality of opportunity and providing a level playing field to all the players, reservation is extended. * Indian constitution grants reservation to socially and educationally backward sections of the society. Women comprise one such section, who due to patriarchal traditions of the society continue to be deprived of equality vis--vis men. Reservation to women is one such attempt towards greater equality. * 73rd amendment act, 1992 provided 33% reservation to women in Panchayati Raj Institutions. This gave leadership of women a statutory status. Traditionally, the leadership capability of women has always been undermined. However, various case studies reveal that women sarpanches were able to implement many socially beneficial decisions like prohibition of liquor etc. This has given a new sense of achievement to them and more of them aspire to come out of their traditional role to create a new environment for the new generation. Similarly, reservation in Parliament will certainly go a long way in raising the status of women. * The increasing criminalisation of politics, which is a great barrier to participation of women in contesting elections, can be checked by granting reservation to women in Parliament, which will make it mandatory for political parties to field women candidates. * Women can better represent the interests of women in legislature. At present, inspite of the best efforts of the government, our social security schemes continue to have a male bias, viz National Rural Employment Guarantee Act by extending employment to just one able bodied person per household is implicitly biased against the working of women. * Most of the political parties have a male majority of party workers even after more than 50 years of independence. Way back in the early decades of 20th century, father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi had recognised the role of women in national politics. In his writings in Young India, he wrote, "Woman is the companion of man gifted with equal mental capacity, she has the right to participate in the minutest details of the activities of men, she has the same right of freedom and liberty as he." The concern can be addressed by extending reservation to women in the Parliament. * The crimes against women are rampant in the society, whether it is in the domestic sphere or

the outer world. By empowering the women, this can be checked to large extent, as laws alone cannot help until the women are empowered. * Though the status of women has considerably increased over the years and they are present in almost all spheres, yet the bulk of women, especially from rural areas still continue to be neglected. An important half of the entire social framework has been kept dormant and languishing and any reservation in the highest legislative body will ensure them better participation and understanding of the system. However, those who doubt that the reservation of women will be an effective tool in their empowerment, argue that.. * Women have made great strides so far without any reservation and they can go further without reservation. This will give her a greater sense of achievement as by competing with men without reservation they can prove their mettle better. * If political history of the country during the last 50 years has anything to show, reservation for weaker sections has become more of political gimmicks and an agenda of vote bank politics. Creamy layers among the weaker sections continue to skimoff the benefits generation after generation, while the relatively weaker members still continue to live with their deprivation. Reservation for women also has the tendency to meet similar fate over the years with lower caste and poor women not benefiting. It will create more and deeper schisms than ever before. * Moreover, mere laws cannot empower without measures at other fronts like education, developing entrepreneurial skills etc. So the need is to change the mindset of society. Reservation doesn't guarantee a general change of attitude towards women. * The need is to have responsible and sensible woman MPs, not the MPs who are puppets in the hands of their husbands. And, this cannot be achieved without supplementary measures for empowerment. * Without other measures of empowerment, criminalisation of politics cannot be checked, as the relatively weaker women will continue to be suppressed by their stronger counterparts. * The reservation would go against democratic norms and even developed countries like US and UK have not given any reservation to women. * Instead of providing reservation, we need to provide women with more avenues of development, so that their end of empowerment is realized. Our end is to empower women not to provide reservation. So we need to chalk out the best possible way for their empowerment, and not just provide reservation, and think that our duty towards empowering them is over. Finally, it can be said that reservation for women in Parliament will give them a greater say in the politics of the country, but other measures of empowerment should follow. Women in spite of all the stumbling blocks are trying hard to make space for themselves in the political arena. To cope up with the inhibiting factors, women need to be more articulative in coordinating the social and economic roles thus making space for the new political role in her life, and enjoying the benefits of reservation. So we should treat reservation as a means to an end and not an end in itself.