Lok Satta Junction

For better governance in India.

Lok Satta on Women’s Reservation Bill

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The UPA government plans to introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill, which seeks to reserve one-third of the seats in the parliament for women. This bill has been debated several times for over more than a decade now. This Reuters blog provides a good overview of the various positions on the issue.

According to the Outlook magazine,

“Even within a broader culture of ‘dynastic politics’, as the shorthand phrase goes, political scientists reckon that women MPs are more likely to be from political families than their male counterparts, and clearly, more than one dynamic is at work here. You reward a lieutenant by giving a seat to his appendage, and at the same time ensure he pours in the money, manpower and clout needed for her success. For a political player, it means consolidating power in safer ways than most—who, for instance, would you trust more than your wife?

At least 36 of 58 women MPs who have made it to the new House—that’s close to a depressing two-thirds—are close relatives of male politicians.

According to a Govt. sponsored study, the results of the existing reservation for women in the local governing bodies, has been quite encouraging. A sizeable proportion of women representatives perceive enhancement in their self-esteem (79%), confidence (81%) and decision-making ability (74%). As much as four-fifths of the elected representatives (male/female) did not have anyone in their family affiliated with politics. This was more evident in the case of Ward Members as compared to Pradhans, and male representatives as compared to their women counterparts. The report did not specifically mention the percentage of elected women representatives, without political connections.

From Loksatta News:

“Addressing a media conference, party President Dr. Jayaprakash Narayan recalled that that a Bill to provide for women’s reservations had been introduced many times in the last 13 years but had not been passed apparently because most parties were not serious about it.

Dr. JP pointed out that the Bill as it is conceived is seriously flawed. The Bill proposes reservation of one-third seats for women and the rotation of such reserved seats once in every general election. As a result, two-thirds of incumbents will be forcibly unseated in every general election. When male incumbents are forced out, they field their womenfolk as proxies and hinder development of natural leadership. “Such compulsory unseating violates the very principles of democratic representation and jeopardizes the possibility of any legislator choosing a constituency and nursing it. When legislators do not have the incentive to seek re-election from the same constituency, politics will become more predatory and unaccountable. The Bill in its present form is silent about women’s representation in the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils. In addition, the Bill warrants a constitutional amendment.”

Studying all these, the Lok Satta had as early as 1999 presented an alternative for consideration by all political parties. It calls for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act making it mandatory for every recognized political party to field women candidates in one-third of constituencies. To prevent a party from nominating women candidates only in States or constituencies where the party’s chances of winning are weak, the Lok Satta proposes that each party should consider the State as a unit for fielding women candidates in elections to the Lok Sabha. In other words, a party has to field one-third of women candidates in every State. A party’s failure to field the requisite number of women entails a penalty. For the shortfall of every woman candidate, the party cannot field male candidates in two constituencies.

The Lok Satta Bill proposes that for reservation of seats for women in a State Assembly, the unit shall be a cluster of three contiguous Lok Sabha constituencies.

Dr, JP said that the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act should be amended to provide for reservation of one-third of seats to women in the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils.

The Election Commission had endorsed the Lok Satta Bill, Dr. JP said.”

A good discussion with JP on TV5 regarding the bill is available on youtube: 1, 2, 3, and 4.

While reservation will certainly fast track the visibility of women, even if they are connected to powerful men, in the legislatures, it is internal democracy within the political parties that will truly enhance the stature of women or any other under-represented class. Reservation of any form for anyone in any field is only a temporary measure to accommodate for past inequities. Empowerment happens when that reservation helps the subsequent generations to become successful without the aid of those reservations.

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Written by jujung

June 12, 2009 at 12:15 PM

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