With an aim to strengthen women’s empowerment, the Kerala Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed two vital bills providing for 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies in the state.

The Kerala Panchayat Raj (second amendment) bill and the Kerala Municipality (amendment) bill, adopted by the Assembly on Wednesday, seeks to give crucial role for women in the decision-making process for grass-root level developmental and welfare activities.

The new legislation will pave the way for women to hold 50 per cent of seats in village, block and district panchayats and municipalities and city corporations after the civic polls in mid-2010.

Winding up the debate on the bills, Minister for Local Self-Governance Paloli Mohammed Kutty said 50 per cent of the posts of presidents and vice-presidents of all civic bodies would be reserved for women.

Half of the positions in standing committees in local self government institutions would also go for women, he said.

The legislation would help increase women’s participation in development work and thereby bring in social equality and gender justice, the minister said.

While endorsing the main purpose of the legislation, the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition raised objections to the clauses in the bills for a steep hike in property tax.

The government was effecting the tax hike under the cover of women’s quota, Opposition Leader Oommen Chandy charged.