On the Women’s Reservation Bill

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In a country that reacts intensely to reservation of seats for women in public transport, what does a Bill for reservation of seats for women in the Parliament see? It fails, of course. Bills like these, put mildly, are instruments of power to a pseudo-elitist class that claims it propagates equality for all, but does the same thing it condemns- discrimination. Since March 2010, this debate on the Bill has gotten stronger than ever before.

Opposition to the Bill is not misogynistic in nature. It does not arise out of the belief that Eve is inherently inferior to Adam. It does not put forth that women should forever be unquestioning victims of patriarchy and stick to the kitchens. In fact, it argues that it is the Bill that concedes to gender
politics, by hitting at incentives for men to contest in elections. This is no different from reservation in educational institutions, a subject of much contention in current times. With 49.5% of seats already reserved for Scheduled Castes & Tribes (SC-ST) as well as Other Backward Classes (OBC), a 33%
gender-based reservation violates the very core of gender equality by sieving out
candidates in the General category.

Despite his amusing demeanour, RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has assumed a very pertinent stand on the issue. He has stated that his party is not against the introduction of the long-awaited quota, but prefers that it be concentrated on women from minority sections and underprivileged sections of society. Whether this is because of the upheaval he had to face on agreeing to the introduction of the measure, in its totality, does not matter, it has paved the way for further arguments. To call attention to the chief proponents of resistance to this Bill, one does not need look beyond Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh’s statement, that the three Yadavs (Lalu Prasad Yadav and his key allies, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sharad Yadav) hold a
similar perspective.

A question that ought to be raised is- what is the guarantee that those who occupy seats in the Parliament through quota are able and experienced enough to hold office? Can the Government confidently say that after all the effort that has been taken to introduce the Bill, it will not be the mothers, sisters or wives of politicians who are mere puppets in the hands of their male kinsmen, acting on the their behalf and voicing the latter’s opinion? If that is true, isn’t the whole idea of reservation topromote women’s participation and balance the gender scales null-and-void?

Also, nepotism and bribery remain major deciding factors in the selection of candidates. The anti corruption drive, that has recently taken the country by storm, will take months, if not years, to establish a foothold and percolate into all levels of legislature and administration. In case a female candidate chooses to take the same path, the arguments of the supporters of this Bill about it improving the electoral process make as much sense as Baba Ramdev’s stance on homosexuality.
All in all, the Women’s Reservation Bill seems to be more trouble than it is worth.

Aayushi Sinha

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