How much of an impact will the Women’s Reservation Bill have? | In Focus podcast

Prof Janaki Nair explains the history of the Bill, the barriers women face in politics and how elected women representatives can usher in change.

October 16, 2023 05:00 pm | Updated 05:21 pm IST

The Constitution 128th Amendment Bill, popularly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, was passed by both Houses of the Parliament last month. The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, as the Bill is now known, seeks to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and all State Legislative Assemblies for women. 

It has taken the country over 25 years to pass the Bill, after it was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1996, by the then Deve Gowda-led United Front government. At that time, it was heatedly opposed, and subsequently, despite being reintroduced several times, the Bill was not passed, until this year.

In 1993 however, then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao brought in Bills which reserved one third (33%) of all seats and chairperson posts for women in rural and urban local bodies. These Bills were passed and became laws. Today, the country has nearly 15 lakh elected women representatives in panchayats and other local bodies.

The representation of women in our Parliament however, is dismal – just about 15%, lower even than Pakistan and Kenya.

Why is women’s reservation in Parliament and State Legislatures important? What has been the experience of elected women’s representatives in local bodies and what are the changes they have managed to bring about? What are the barriers to women entering the political sphere? And how will this Bill, which is not going to be implemented in the immediate future, pan out?

Guest: Janaki Nair, retired professor of history, JNU

Host: Zubeda Hamid

Edited by Jude Francis Weston

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