Women Reservation Bill: In 20 States & UTs less than 10% MLAs are female | Data

Share of women parliamentarians has never exceeded 15% in the past general elections

September 24, 2023 10:07 am | Updated 11:25 am IST

Women visitors arrive at the Parliament House on the day of debate on the Women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha, during the special session, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

Women visitors arrive at the Parliament House on the day of debate on the Women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha, during the special session, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.

The BJP government tabled the Women’s Reservation Bill as the first order of business in the new Parliament House on September 19. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the Bill a historic decision and said that he had been chosen by god for the noble task of giving rights to women. The bill was passed in Rajya Sabha unanimously on September 21, a day after it received near-unanimous approval in the Lok Sabha

First introduced in 1996 in the Lok Sabha by the H.D. Deve Gowda-led United Front government, the Bill did not get the approval of the House. It was reintroduced many times subsequently but failed to pass muster and lapsed with the dissolution of Houses.

As per the 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023, or the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, a third of the seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies is proposed to be reserved for women. However, the amendment to the Constitution comes with a caveat that it can be implemented only after a delimitation exercise — scheduled to be held in 2026 — has been completed, using data from the latest Census conducted after the passage of the Bill. This effectively pushes the earliest year of implementation to the 2029 general election.

After implementation, there should be at least 181 (approximately 33.3% of seats) women members in the Lower House. At present there are 82 women in the Lok Sabha which amounts to 15% of its members (Chart 1). The share of women parliamentarians has never exceeded the 15% mark in over 70 years of India’s electoral history. When considered as a share of total candidates who participated in the 2019 general election, their share is even lower at 9%. The share of women candidates has never exceeded the 9% mark ever. 

Chart 1 shows the share of women members in the Lok Sabha over time (in %).

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In the case of the sitting State Legislative Assemblies, the share of women MLAs is far lower with just one State — Tripura— touching the 15% mark (Chart 2). Women members formed less than 10% of Legislative Assemblies in 20 States and Union Territories. This includes States such as Gujarat (8.2%), Maharashtra (8.3%), Andhra Pradesh (8%), Kerala (7.9%), Tamil Nadu (5.1%), Telangana (5%) and Karnataka (4.5%).

In the 2023 election, Nagaland got its first two women MLAs. Mizoram too has not had a women MLA in the past seven Assemblies. 

Chart 2 shows the share of women in State Legislative Assemblies over a period of time (in %).

When seen across party lines, women form just 13.5% of sitting members of the largest party in the Lower House, the Bharatiya Janata Party (Chart 3). The highest share of women MPs in the Lok Sabha are from the Biju Janata Dal (41.7%) followed by the Trinamool Congress (40.9%). Similarly, a party-wise analysis of the State Legislative Assemblies shows that the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal had the highest share of women MLAs (15.3%) followed by the Congress in Chhattisgarh (14.7%). The Congress in Karnataka (3%), the Bharat Rashtra Samithi in Telangana (3.4%), and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in Tamil Nadu (4.5%) had among the lowest shares.

Chart 3 shows the party-wise share of women legislators (in %).

The share of women in India’s Parliament is also among the lowest in the world. When compared with BRICS nations, including the new members, India has the second-lowest share (15%), just above Iran (6%) (Chart 4). Over time, South Africa and Ethiopia have made giant strides in women representation in their national legislatures. 

Chart 4 shows the share of women in Parliaments of BRICS and other countries.

Source: Trivedi Centre for Political Data’s Indian elections dataset, Election Commission of India, Inter-Parliamentary Union

Also read |Legislating change: On the passage of the women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha

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