‘Why has Govt not used its majority in House to pass Women's Reservation Bill?’: Brinda Karat
In an interview with Hindustan Times, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s politburo member and former MP, Brinda Karat, talks about whether the Women’s Reservation Bill is still relevant, and the significance of reservation for women in politics. Edited excerpts:
Twenty-five years after it was first introduced in Parliament, the Women’s Reservation Bill is yet to become a reality. In an interview with Hindustan Times, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)’s politburo member and former MP, Brinda Karat, talks about whether this proposed law is still relevant, and the significance of reservation for women in politics. Edited excerpts:
Has anything changed since the introduction of the bill in 1996?
We were all so happy and felt that it was going to usher in a mechanism to fill the gap between men and women, but just the next day, BJP MPs raised the issue of reservation for women belonging to the Other Backward Classes within this bill. Since then, Parliament and the successive governments have never thought to put the bill at the top of their agenda.
How is it that despite enjoying the support of two major parties — the Congress and BJP — the legislation seems impossible?
I don’t think it’s impossible, it just requires political will... At the end of the day, political will ensured that the bill was discussed, debated and adopted (in the RS). So, why is it that the Centre, which has pushed through several anti-worker, anti-farmer legislation... has not used its strong majority in the House to pass this bill?... One of the reasons is also their cultural framework... One of the objections was... our women whose main job is to bring up children, preferably sons, what is going to happen to that?
But, why didn’t the UPA push it through between 2010 and 2014?
They didn’t have the numbers... they were dependent on certain parties which were not in favour... they have had three committees... I don’t think any other bill has gone through that torturous process... A lot of women question the need for quotas? But, look at the figures — in the 1st Parliament in 1952, we had 24 women. In 2019, we have 78. So, if it takes 73 years to get about 50 more women in Parliament, how many years is it going to take to reach one-third reservation without a quota?
The government is proud of the fact that they have two Cabinet ministers, top ministers, including the finance minister, as women. It counts for something.
Certainly... increasing the number of women in leadership positions holds an important message for the country. The question, however, is: Why are they not raising their voices?...
Do you think, in the last 25 years, things have become easier for women in politics?
Women have gained confidence... The patriarchal conservative framework that “aurat ka sthaan ghar pe hai, pehle maa bano, fir kuch aur bano ” has changed.
Why is the bill still relevant?
Patriarchy is bad for everyone — men, women and the Indian society... bringing the legislation will weaken the patriarchal process..., reduce the inequality in public spaces..., and will further strengthen the Indian democracy.
With inputs by Amitoj Singh Kalsi