48.5 percent of the population of the country politically represented through a 14.4 percent average.
The beauty of democracy?
The agenda of this piece of writing is to reflect on the 25 years of struggle this country’s women have led and continue to lead to demand what is rightfully theirs. To take their place and to say that we are here to stay and we are looking forward to seeing a world changing. A world where women are not subjected to systemic discrimination in every sphere of their lives.
The debate for the Women’s reservation bill was first introduced on September 12, 1996. The bill was the introduction of a constitutional amendment bill that sought to reserve one-third (33%) of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies. It marked the beginning of a movement that is 25 years strong today in 2021. The bill was reintroduced in the parliament again in 1998, 1999 and 2008. The bill went as ahead as getting passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but again met with no consensus in the Lok Sabha. All four attempts were rejected and faced lapse as the governments changed and there could be no consensus.
The question that comes to one’s mind is Why? Why couldn’t the largest democracy in the world not pass a bill that brings in a more democratic representation. Where has been the loophole that has restricted a bill that is supported by the biggest women’s rights movement this country has witnessed. Why isn’t there conversation amongst everyday citizens of this great disparity that exists in the governing body that draws all policies in benefit of the country. How does this affect the molding of the country’s values and the way it treats its women?
Varied Arguments faced by the movement
It does not come as a surprise that we live in a world that restricts women from achieving equal representation in every arena through years of suppression of women’s rights and social barriers. If we look at global representation of women in political/electoral positions, it stands at a sad 25.8%. While India takes pride in saying that there are more women representatives today than India has ever witnessed. Factually, you see that there has been a meagre 10% raise in the last 70 years. From 24 to 78 representatives out of 543 seats in the parliament.
A major backlash that the bill faced was that the blanket reservation will bring in a specified class/caste representation of women through this bill. This was brought time and again in debates challenging the bill. To address this concern, the bill was reworked upon with 1/3rd reservation for scheduled castes and tribes representatives under the bill. This would bring in a more horizontal perspective. This reworked bill was presented in 2008, it was rejected again.
We have to understand that women face the challenge of breaking the strong set patriarchal values and structure. The inherent fear of the dominant gender to share the power and space remains the biggest challenge that is being faced by the movement.
On the other hand, we see more women in sectors that are considered more feminine or ideal for a woman. One immediately understands the sectors in the spotlight. This further establishes these regressive structures and the construct of femininity and the role of women.
Where does the movement stand today?
The position of women in Indian politics is becoming stronger everyday, and so should the representation. As YWCA we stand for the rights for women to have equal rights in being part of the social, political and economic affairs of the country.
YWCA strongly believes that this Bill will bring about a change especially for Young Women and women from under-represented groups and lower strata of the society to be part of the Nation Building Process and strengthen democracy by political participation after all women have never got equal representation in politics even after 75 years of independence.
From the perspective of a young woman like me who has been politically active throughout years in university and then later having to make a choice to give it up in order to survive and make a living, shows the disparity between being political and actually being able to be involved in politics.
The argument now also needs to focus on what would happen with more women representation in the Parliament, how there would be more voices of women from under-represented communities will be highlighted. When currently the political party in power and the opposition have strongly expressed their support for the bill, why does it not come up for debate again in the Parliamentary sessions.
We have to educate masses of young women as to why we are fighting for this bill to be passed. To put light on the fact that most women , young women who have no connection to the political scenario also do not have an idea about the WRB, our focus should also be on building the political knowledge of women everywhere, from every sphere of our lives. It should not be limited to a selected few. We have to involve groups in support of the WRB and build allyships.
As we come to a momentary closure, we have to realize our fight is for Representation and a better world for those who come after us. Equality has to be ensured in order to build a society that respects all and there is equal value given to all. The movement stands strong in its strength and in numbers, growing everyday. The movement shall continue till the bill is passed and implemented in the country’s legislative structures.