The Indian Parliament’s upper house passed a bill today that would require one-third of all parliamentary seats to be reserved for women. The bill passed on an overwhelming 186 to 62 vote, giving it far more than the minimum two-thirds support it required, according to the Vancouver Sun. A similar bill was blocked by numerous political groups in 1996, but the current bill is supported by a strong alliance of parties.
According to the BBC News, the 545-member lower house, Lok Sabha, currently contains 59 female members, a number that would rise to 181 with the passage of this bill. The bill would not impact the upper house, Rajya Sabha, because members are elected indirectly by state assemblies, reported BBC News. Currently, 10 percent of the upper house members are women.
Those opposing the bill spoke at the parliamentary session, stating concern that the bill will favor only upper-caste women. Mulayam Singh Yadav, leader of one of the opposition parties, told the New York Times, “We are in favor of women reservation, but first give it to the women of minorities and [then] backwards” to include women of lower castes or Muslim women.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Vancouver Sun, “The bill is a historic step, joyous step forward. It is celebration of our womanhood. This is a momentous development in the long journey of empowering women.”
In order to become law, the bill must be passed by the lower house followed by more than 50 percent of India’s state legislatures before India’s President can sign it into law.