Leaders of nine national women’s organisations met the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar here on Friday to push for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha.

Expressing concern and disappointment over the delay in passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill that seeks to reserve 33 per cent seats for women in Assemblies and Parliament, the delegation said proposed legislation was passed in the Rajya Sabha last year and has been held hostage to the politics of ‘consensus’ since then.

The delegation urged upon Meira Kumar to intervene in this matter to ensure that the Bill is brought onto the agenda of the Lok Sabha and passed without delay on the occasion of the completion of 100 years of International Women’s Day on March 8.

Responding positively to the issues raised by the women, Ms. Kumar, assured that she was with the women of the country in wanting the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill. She said she was in the Parliamentary Committee led by Geeta Mukherjee and would do her bit to give a push for its passage. She also said she was aware of the advances made by elected women in Panchayats and local bodies and was hopeful that the obstacles being raised with regard to this Bill would be overcome.

The resistance to women’s entry into the highest decision making bodies from the conservative and patriarchal forces in society is still widely prevalent, and has been taking different forms. This is why misleading arguments are being posed to divert attention from the real motive of stalling passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha, according to a memorandum submitted to the Speaker.

It pointed out that sub-quotas for women from different socially deprived categories, including Muslim women, are being demanded by those ostensibly speaking up for the deprived women. Since quotas cannot be restricted only to women and since reservation on the basis of religion, and sub caste (other than SC/ST) remains a question yet to be settled within the Constitutional framework, such demands will continue to delay passage of the Women’s Bill, as they have already done for 14 years.

Some of those opposed to the Bill in the name of sub-quotas also say that if reservation for women is reduced from 33 per cent, they will support the Bill. This exposed the hollowness of their demand for sub-quotas, which is only being used to block women’s reservation. The anti-women remarks being made from these quarters further confirm the patriarchal nature of this opposition, the memorandum said.

The delegation comprised Sudha Sundararaman (All India Democratic Women’s Association), Annie Raja (National Federation of Indian Women), Jyotsna Chatterjee (Joint Women’s Programme), Sheila Kakde (All India Women’s Conference), Vimal Thorat (All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch) and Meenakshi Faith Paul (Young Women’s Christian Association).

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