Muslim women hail India vote to reserve parliament seats for women

By Reuters Staff
March 17, 2010

Indian Muslim women reacted positively to a bill passed by the upper house of parliament last week that would reserve one-third of seats in the directly elected lower house of parliament and the state assemblies for women. There are 59 women lawmakers in the lower house of parliament at present, out of a maximum of 545. The bill must still be passed by the lower house, the Lok Sabha.

Championed both by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, the legislation aims to help empower women politically and thus economically in a country where they lag far behind on many social and health indicators.

While parliament is mostly populated by older men, India has a history of women at the top of the political class, including Sonia Gandhi and her mother-in-law, the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

But millions of poor women face steep odds, with shorter schooling, worse nutrition and a literacy rate more than 20 percentage points lower than men.

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Indian women at rally for parliamentary bill 8 March 2010/Vijay Mathur

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