Will the Women’s Reservation Bill guaranteeing 33 per cent reservation of seats for women in legislatures and Parliament ever see the light of day? Not likely, going by past experience. Of course, our politicians have got a little more savvy from the last time around when a prominent politician suggested that women were better employed making rotis than jostling for political space. The target on that occasion was women with ‘short hair’ whose propensity to yearn for political space was seen as antithetical to the preordained role they are meant to fulfil.
Every political organisation claims to be committed to women’s reservation. Women aspiring to political office should now get real. Forget reservations. In the logical course of events, political empowerment for women will happen. The indications are all there in the panchayati raj experiment. Yes, it may be argued that women were given a leg-up in reservations for panchayats. But they have proved that once in office, they are more than up to the task. But, as of now, we have barely 8 per cent women’s representation in Parliament. Is this cause for worry? Not at all. For most women, a political position is not the Holy Grail to be sought after against all odds. Women are making their mark in all walks of life. In the logical scheme of things, women’s representation in politics will increase commensurate with their presence in other fields. Women have breached several bastions hitherto thought of as male preserves — finance, for instance. In any event, there is nothing to suggest that a greater representation of women in politics will translate itself into greater empowerment for women.
So this clamour for the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill appears to be a waste of time and the public exchequer’s money. The trickle-up effect from the panchayat level may be a long and tedious process. But there are all signs that women are not content to remain at the taluk or district level. They have already proved their mettle at the grassroots and now want more. It is clear that men will not willingly cede political space to women through a legislation. There will be several ingenious objections to the passage of the Bill. This is to be expected. Women should just put the Bill on the backburner and get on with empowerment in all other fields. Political empowerment will follow for it is an idea whose time has come.