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Context: In New Delhi, the leader of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) started a day-long hunger strike to press for the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill (WRB). According to the proposed legislation, women will be given one-third of the seats in state assemblies and parliament.
- The Women's Reservation Bill (WRB) was approved by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 but was never put to a vote in the Lok Sabha. Since then, the Bill has expired. Reservation for women in legislative bodies is a long-standing demand. The 72nd and 73rd constitutional amendments, which allotted one-third of the seats and chairmanships in rural and urban local governments to women, are considered logical extensions of this.
Why need Women's Reservations?
- According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, India's political empowerment index has dropped by 13.5 percentage points, and the proportion of women ministers has decreased from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021. Even the government's Economic Surveys admit that the number of women elected to Lok Sabha and other legislative assemblies is alarmingly low.
- According to various surveys, women who serve as Panchayati Raj representatives have made a commendable contribution to the growth and general well-being of society in villages. Many of them would undoubtedly want to work on a larger scale, but they encounter several difficulties due to India's political system.
- Among the difficulties include a lack of sufficient political education, women's low economic status in society, sexual assault, signs of unstable patriarchy, an unequal division of family labour between men and women, etc. Husbands (or other male relatives) frequently use women as proxies in PRIs while holding the real power, a situation known as Panchayat Patis (Husband).
- Even though merely assuring more female representation won't address every problem that affects them, it will be a good starting point. Research by the American Economic Association found that gender-sensitive policies are more likely to be passed and implemented in nations with higher percentages of women in the national parliament.
- The Harvard Kennedy School conducted a study in 2010 that found that having more women on village councils enhanced female engagement and responsiveness to issues like drinking water, infrastructure, sanitation, and roadways.
Present status of Women in Parliament
- Presently, just 14% of Lok Sabha MPs are women (78 in total). In the Rajya Sabha, women represent about 11% of the total membership. While the percentage has increased significantly since the first Lok Sabha when women made only just 5% of all MPs, it is still much lower than in many other nations.
- Rwanda (61%), South Africa (43%), and even Bangladesh (21%), according to PRS statistics, are ahead of India in this area. According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union's most recent report, India ranks 144 out of 193 nations in terms of the representation of women in parliament.
- There are 3 essential, non-negotiable concepts that form the basis of women's political empowerment: gender equality, the right of women to realise their full potential, and the right of women to self-representation and self-determination. There is a gender imbalance in political decision-making, and women leaders must be more visible to have an impact on decisions about positions and to encourage young girls to help create their country.
- India urgently needs to feminise politics to boost the number of women representatives. It would involve women's participation in decision-making, power sharing, running political parties, holding political office, and formulating policies at all levels of governance.
Q. With more reservations for women in the Indian parliament, the status of women in society will strengthen. Discuss.