Some questions on the Women’s Reservation Bill
The Women’s Reservation Bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha on the International Women’s Day.
It may be the most consequential act of lawmaking since independence.
How far will women’s reservation empower women and the society?
There are questions on its provisions as they have been reported.
The bill seeks to bring more women into parliament by reserving seats.
While this widens the choice for the voter by putting women leaders into circulation it also decreases the choice of candidates for voters in reserved constituencies.
It has to be seen how the bill balances these concerns.
Then there are details like rotation of reserved seats.
If a seat is reserved for the next round of elections, what incentive will the sitting (male) member have to nurture the electorate?
Will one term of reservation be sufficient for the women members to fight the next election by themselves?
There are doubts on whether women who do make it to the parliament on the strength of reservations would be ‘representative’ enough.
The “quota within a quota” only partly and unhelpfully flags this issue.
The “representative” character of the male candidates who are elected year after year is not questioned with the same vehemence.
Yet one cannot ignore the fact that money power and nepotism rule in candidate selection.
Is the bill going to remedy that?
If we have a woman representative who is elected through the same creaky electoral machine that relies on black money, backroom deals and influence peddling then is she going to be different from the existing elected representatives?
Is being a woman enough to “represent” women?
In the absence of meaningful inner- party democracy and electoral reforms, is the bill just going to window-dress the republic?
But then is it even fair to expect everything from a bill that just aims at letting in more women?
The women’s quota is being introduced for 15 years.
Studies show it will have benefits.
The poser is — if this reservation policy fails at sufficiently empowering women in that time frame –that failure will become a justification for continuing with it longer.
Will this end up preventing other, bolder and imaginative, ways and means for ensuring political empowerment of women?