As the United Progressive Alliance Government completes 100 days in office on September 11, one of the promises made in the Presidential address, of providing 33 per cent political reservation for women, has not been fulfilled because of a “deficit of political will” said Brinda Karat, senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and Vice-President of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA).
Speaking at a seminar organised here on Wednesday by AIDWA and Surana College on the Women’s Reservation Bill, she said that the failure of the Bill to be passed 13 years after it was first introduced is a “blot on our democracy.”
In the list of 160 countries, India occupies a shameful 108th place in providing representation to women in Parliament, she said. Contrasting the representation of women in India (11 per cent) with the neighbouring countries, she said that Afghanistan (27 per cent), Pakistan (22 per cent), China (20 per cent) and Bangladesh (13 per cent) fare better despite them “not having an inspiring record for women’s rights.”
This situation, she said, is a great irony in a country that holds a world record for having the biggest representation of women at the grassroots level in the panchayat system, at 1.2 million. “In 20,000 panchayats, women are doing as well if not better than men,” she said.
Reservation for women should be enforced through a legal mandate because political parties will not be able to convince their MLAs and MPs to give up their positions voluntarily, said Ms. Karat. The repeated references to creating a consensus on the issue is nothing but a euphemism for “putting the issue yet again in deep freeze.” A Parliamentary standing committee set up on the Bill, in which she was a member, had reached a consensus on the issue and all legal procedures were in place, said Ms. Karat.
Ms. Karat said that women continue to face invisible socio-economic and cultural barriers which make reservation necessary. “Young Sitas today face Lakshman Rekhas and are punished for crossing it out of a sense of curiosity or adventure,” said Ms. Karat.
K.S. Vimala, State President of AIDWA, said that all political parties had made an electoral promise to push for the Bill, but had failed to carry it forward after elections.