Women’s Reservation Bill is up again in talks after Narendra Modi cabinet reshuffle. Out of the 77 ministers, only 11 are women. The bill remains so as of 2021. Because the bill awaits approval by the Lok Sabha, male minds still dominate decision-making in the country. The bill argues for reservation of 33% of seats for women in the parliament and state assemblies. As of now, there are 79 female members in the Lok Sabha, less than a third of the 543 seats of the Assembly. These 79 women represent all of the country’s women while sticking with their parties’ ideologies. In contrast, countries like Rwanda have more than half of their assembly seats held by the women.
What has happened so far:
The bill was first introduced by HD Deve Gowda’s government in 1996. The bill was once put forward in the Vajpayee-led assembly but failed to pass again. The Upper house has passed the bill, but it does not become an Act without the Lok Sabha’s approval. Lalu Prasad Yadav has been a vocal critic of the bill because it doesn’t contain reservations among reservations of the underprivileged women. For some, this very important bill was so upsetting that they have staged walkouts to prevent the bill from passing.
Albeit we have seen some stalwart female politicians throughout history, they are not spared by casual and formal sexism. Opposition candidate Imarti Devi was thoughtlessly called an “item girl” by BJP candidate Kamal Nath. There are also debates on which party has the prettier girls, all in the name of mocking either party. In a more violent incident, Mayawati was physically assaulted by Samajwadi Party fanatics.
The Modi government is busy clearing bills that are beneficial to them. In his second term as the Prime Minister, the most important acts include the Abrogation of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Act, the Central Vista Plan, and the very controversial Farm laws. The Women’s Reservation Bill came up again in the Rajya Sabha on the very special occasion of women’s day. In a brazen move that day, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi appealed that the bill allows 50% representation of women.
Countries that are yet to catch up with India in terms of development have more women engaged in the legislature. Even in ultra-modern times as 2021, Modi’s dream of a utopian Indian will always be bleak if we can’t achieve something as basic as gender equality.