Women’s Reservation Bill

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    Syllabus: GS2/Indian Polity

    In News

    • The women’s reservation bill is likely to be tabled in the special session of Parliament.

    What is the Women’s Reservation Bill?

    • The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.  
    • The allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
    • The bill proposes sub-reservation for SCs, STs and Anglo-Indians within the 33% quota.
    • These reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
    • Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.

    Background

    • 1989: It was former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who first planted the seed of women reservation in elected bodies by introducing the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide one-third reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies.
      • The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha but failed to get passed in Rajya Sabha.
    • 1993: In 1992 and 1993, then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao reintroduced the Constitution Amendment Bills 72 and 73, which reserved one third (33%) of all seats and chairperson posts for women in rural and urban local bodies.
      • The Bills were passed by both the houses and became the law of the nation. 
    • 1996: In 1996, then Deve Gowda-led United Front government for the first time introduced the 81st Constitution Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha for reservation of women in the Parliament.
      • After the Bill failed to get approval in Lok Sabha, it was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee chaired by Geeta Mukherjee. 
      • The Mukherjee commttee presented its report in 1996. However, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. 
    • 1999-2003: The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government pushed the WRB Bill in the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998. However, this time too, the Bill failed to get support, and lapsed again. 
    • 2008: The government tabled it in 2008, this time in Rajya Sabha to prevent it from lapsing again.
      • Five of the seven recommendations made by the 1996 Geeta Mukherjee Committee were included in this version of the Bill. 
      • The Bill was eventually passed in the Rajya Sabha with 186-1 votes on March 9, 2010.
    • 2014: However, the Bill was never taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha and eventually lapsed in 2014.
      • Bills introduced/ passed in Rajya Sabha do not lapse, hence the Women’s Reservation Bill is still very much active.

    Need for the Bill

    • The current Lok Sabha has the highest-ever percentage of women MPs, at 14 percent, which is lower than the global average of 24 percent.
    • There is the necessity of affirmative action to improve the condition of women. Some recent studies on panchayats have shown the positive effect of reservation on the empowerment of women and on the allocation of resources.
    • The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index has four dimensions – Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. 
    • There is also an argument that having a diverse group of people in powerful positions helps institutions view things from a variety of perspectives. 

    Source: IE