Women lawmakers on Tuesday dominated the first hour in Rajya Sabha, which marked a departure from the usual practice by deciding to celebrate International Women’s Day in Parliament.
“The IWD is a day to celebrate the acts of courage and determination of ordinary women in India and throughout the world. The day reminds us to assess the progress in gender equality, women’s empowerment and their rights,” Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari said in his opening remarks.
He also underlined issues like crimes against women and girls, domestic violence, female foeticide, honour killings as urgent issues, adding, “the need of the hour calls for introspection and a change in our mindset.”
While it was business as usual in Lok Sabha, minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla, one of the senior women lawmakers in the House, used the occasion to urge the early passage of the women’s reservation bill that envisages 33% reservation for the fairer sex in state assemblies and Lok Sabha.
Rajya Sabha had earlier passed the bill during the UPA government’s tenure in 2010, but kept pending in Lok Sabha and lapsed with the 15th Lok Sabha expiring its term.
Heptullah began by demanding an end to discrimination faced by women in their own homes. She called for passing a resolution that the MPs will work for creating a women-friendly society.
Congress’ Ambika Soni was not pleased about being given only three minutes to speak on critical issues like the reservation bill. She said when the bill was passed in Rajya Sabha, there was hope that it would be passed in Lok Sabha as well.
Soni said the bill has become a “touch-me-not” as there has been “no discussion, no amendment and no passing” of the crucial bill.
She said if MPs feel there is a defect in the bill, there should be a discussion.
As women MP’s raised the issue of 33% reservation, deputy chairperson PJ Kurien was quick to point out Rajya Sabha can take pride that it managed to pass the bill seeking reservation for women. He said efforts should be made to ensure that the bill passed by the House becomes a law.
In Lok Sabha, Congress chief and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi also sought the early passage of the bill saying “maximum governance” means giving women their due.
There are 66 women MPs in the 544-member Lok Sabha and 31 women MPs in the 241-member Rajya Sabha at present.
President Pranab Mukherjee and vice-president Hamid Ansari had pointed out the poor representation of women in Parliament and its various committees during the recently concluded National Conference of Women Legislators.
Mukherjee even expressed his displeasure over the pending women’s reservation bill.