Media laud success of women's quota bill | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Media laud success of women's quota bill

delhi Updated: Mar 10, 2010 13:14 IST
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Newspapers on Wednesday hailed a vote by legislators to reserve one-third of parliamentary seats for women after a debate that saw unruly protests and the suspension of several MPs.

Sonia Gandhi, the matriarch of national politics, said she was "happy for all the women of the country" after the upper house passed the bill, which now heads to Lok Sabha where more furious opposition is expected.

Regional socialist parties have campaigned against the law since it was first proposed 14 years ago, saying it would benefit only elite Hindus unless there were specific quotas for Muslim and low-caste women.

"Women Go From Home to House" ran the headline in The Times of India, which like other dailies described the vote as a major breakthrough for women's rights.

"It is no secret that patriarchy runs deep in Indian society and women have been historically denied social, economic and political opportunities," the Times said in its editorial.

"India takes a giant leap for womankind" the Hindu newspaper declared after the vote was passed by a large majority.

The bill has threatened to split the Congress-led coalition that won last year's elections but party president Gandhi, who has invested political capital in the policy, said she was committed to seeing it pass into law.

"Politics is always full of risks," said the widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

"Whenever there is something revolutionary and new, there is opposition, there are difficulties in
all parties, perhaps in my party too," she added.

The bill won the backing of 186 of the 248 members of Rajya Sabha, more than the two-thirds majority needed for the draft legislation, which would result in a constitutional change.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh welcomed the vote as "a momentous development in the long journey of empowering women".

Women currently occupy 59 out of the 545 seats in Lok Sabha and just 21 women in the 248-seat Rajya Sabha.

When the bill was presented on Monday, International Women's Day, the socialists forced repeated adjournments and at one point ripped up the law, threw shreds of paper at the speaker and grabbed his microphone.

Seven members were suspended over the uproar and a parliamentary security team was deployed to keep order on Tuesday.

Panchayats already reserve a portion of their seats for women and experts say the move has given women greater status in their communities.

Politics in India has traditionally been a male bastion, but women now hold prominent positions, including President Pratibha Patil and Sonia Gandhi.