India: Women’s Reservation Bill Deferred

Despite having the support of three-fourths of the lower house of parliament, a bill that would increase representation of women in India’s parliament was put aside without a vote on Tuesday. The Women’s Reservation Bill would require that one-third of all seats in the Lok Sabha (India’s lower house) be filled by women. Women currently make up only 10 percent of house members, according to BBC News.

The bill has been criticized by some socialist political parties that want separate quotas for Muslim and low-caste Hindu women, according to BBC. Members of these parties blocked the bill from being introduced in the current session of parliament, which closes on Friday. However, political parties supporting the bill, including the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition party, the Congress Party, argue that the bill would ensure that women from all classes would be represented in government, according to The Hindu. Brinda Karat of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association told The Hindu that “a handful of [house members] hijacked the entire parliament. …[It was] a betrayal of women and has a grave message for democracy.”

The bill has been introduced into parliament twice in its history, and three consecutive prime ministers have tried and failed to pass the bill since 1996. Because the bill involves amending India’s constitution, it requires the approval of two-thirds of the house. The Lok Sabha amended its constitution similarly ten years ago when it approved a bill setting aside one-third of seats on village councils for women, according to BBC.


BBC News 5/6/03; The Hindu 5/8/03, 5/6/03; The Times of India 5/6/03

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