Women’s quota — rhetoric and reality
The recent passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in both Houses of Parliament has been celebrated as a progressive step. However, this conditional legislation comes with certain realities that require a closer look. The implementation of the Women’s Reservation Law is contingent upon the conduct of a census and delimitation of constituencies, conditions that might not be justified.
GS-02 (Government Policies and Interventions)
Examine the implications of linking the Women’s Reservation Law to the conduct of a census and delimitation of constituencies and discuss the challenges and justifications for such conditions in the context of promoting gender equality in legislative bodies. (250 words)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Under-Representation of Women
- Issue of Delimitation
- North-South Divide
- Exclusion of Women from Delimitation
- Comparison with SC/ST Reservation
Under-Representation of Women:
- The Women’s Reservation Law aims to address the under-representation of women in legislative bodies.
- Statistics reveal that a small percentage of seats in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are occupied by women.
- Example: In Lok Sabha, only 15% of the maximum allowed 550 seats are occupied by women, and in the Rajya Sabha, just 12% of the 250 members are women. This highlights the need of addressing this gender imbalance in political representation.
- India’s ranking of 141 out of 185 countries in the Global Gender Gap Report highlights the need for addressing gender disparities in political representation.
Issue of Delimitation:
- Article 81 (2) (a) of the Constitution and Article 170 provide the basis for designing constituencies, primarily using population as a criterion.
- Delimitation, a contentious issue in India, is tied to population expansion with limited consideration for development and family planning.
- The postponement of delimitation for years highlights the challenges in this process.
- The proposed delimitation, coupled with demographic differences between North and South India, could create disparities in political power and resource allocation, potentially favoring certain Northern states.
- Scholar Nilakantan R.S. has highlighted the stark differences in performance between South and North Indian states, especially in sectors like health, education, and the economy.
Exclusion of Women from Delimitation:
- The inclusion of women’s reservation with delimitation overlooks the unique requirements of each and the need for a separate approach for women’s representation.
- Also, the demand for a census specifically for women’s reservation is questioned as the Women’s Reservation Law has different criteria and objectives compared to delimitation.
- The merger of the demand for women’s reservation with the uncertain delimitation process in a constitutional amendment has raised concerns about the legislation’s approach and democratic transparency.
Comparison with SC/ST Reservation:
- The criteria for reservation based on population, as seen in the case of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) reservation, are not directly relevant to women’s quota, given the nearly equal gender distribution.
The linkage of the Women’s Reservation Law with the delimitation process and the associated conditions need reevaluation. A separate approach, with clarity on the unique requirements of women’s representation, should be considered. The complexities of conditional legislation and its implications for constitutional amendments require careful scrutiny.
The Women’s Reservation Law, while celebrated for its intent, raises questions about the conditions tied to its implementation. The linkage with delimitation and population-based criteria may not be suitable for addressing gender disparities in legislative bodies. A reevaluation of the legislation’s approach, in line with modern constitutional principles, is necessary to promote gender equality effectively.