President Pranab Mukherjee and vice president Hamid Ansari on Saturday made a strong pitch for reviving the women’s reservation bill, saying their higher representation in public office was not possible unless one-third of seats are reserved for them in Parliament and state legislatures.
The government had recently refused to give a time frame in bringing a fresh constitutional amendment bill that seeks to give 33% reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies and insisted that consensus among political parties was needed for its passage.
“How can there be empowerment of women without proper representation?” asked Mukherjee, inaugurating a national conference of women legislators. “It’s unfortunate that we are not being able to ensure 33% representation of women in Parliament.”
The President said the country has so far not been able to achieve more than 12% representation for women out of the total membership of Parliament. “This is a sad commentary on us….attitudinal change is necessary but to expect that everybody will fall in line is too much and normally does not happen.”
The two-day conference with the theme, ‘Role of Women Legislators in Nation Building’, is being organised by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and attended by women MPs and MLAs from across the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh Parliament Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury were also present.
Ansari asked parties to voluntarily increase the nomination of women candidates in elections till the legislation was enacted.
Giving data, he said out of a total of 1591 candidates fielded by six national parties in 2014 Lok Sabha elections only 146 constituting 9.17% were women despite 47% of the total voters being women. “This is certainly not very encouraging.”
Regretting inadequate representation of women in parliamentary committees, he called all political parties to ensure that the women bill is not delayed further.
The Rajya Sabha had passed the women quota bill during the UPA tenure in March 2010 amid high drama that saw use of marshals to evict members. However, the bill lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. As per the rule, any bill pending in the Lok Sabha lapses with dissolution of the house. Bills pending in the Rajya Sabha remain “alive” for all the time since the upper house is a permanent body and can’t be dissolved.
For her part, Mahajan too said women representation in Parliament and state legislatures need to be corrected as they play a crucial role in society.