India’s lower house of Parliament voted against the Women’s Reservation Bill, which would have allocated one-third of Parliamentary seats for women. The bill would thus require that male members cede approximately 180 seats to women. The bill passed the upper house of India’s Parliament in March 2010 with a nearly unanimous vote of 191 to one; however, it must be ratified by the lower house before it can become law.
When the bill passed the upper house, women’s rights advocate Brinda Karat of the Communist Party of India, stated, “The bill will change the culture of the country because women today are still caught in a cultural prison. We have to fight stereotypes every day.” Moreover, Esther Duflo and Raghabendra Chattopadhyay conclude in their 2003 study that women parliamentarians are more likely than men to prioritize public health and education, the New York Times reports.
Currently, women make up only 10 percent of both the upper and lower houses of Parliament. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the world average for female representation in national parliaments is 19.3 percent.
New York Times 1/3/12; CNN 3/9/10