Women Reservation Bill: A Comprehensive Guide

On Wednesday, September 20, the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) passed an important bill called the Women’s Reservation Bill, also known as the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023. The bill gained the support of the majority, with 454 votes in favor and just 2 opposing it. Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal introduced the bill at the start of the Parliament’s session to advance the cause of gender equality.

If you are curious about the women’s reservation bill and what it entails for women, keep on reading.


Key Features of the Women’s Reservation Bill

The Women’s Reservation Bill aims to bring about significant changes in the representation of women in politics. Here are its main features:

1. 33% Reservation: The bill proposes the allocation of 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, and even in the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

2. Inclusive Reservation: Within the reserved seats for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), a similar reservation will also be implemented for women.

3. Time Limit: The bill proposes that the reservation for women will be implemented for a duration of 15 years. This provision aims to ensure substantial progress in women’s political participation within a defined time frame.

4. Seat Rotation: In order to ensure fair opportunities, the bill suggests that reserved seats for women will be periodically rotated after each delimitation exercise. Delimitation refers to the procedure of revising Parliamentary and Assembly constituencies by taking into account the most recent population data.

This strategy allows for a fair distribution of reserved seats among women candidates.


The Genesis of the Women’s Reservation Bill

The significance of women’s political empowerment in dismantling gender inequality and discrimination has long been recognized.

In order to tackle this concern, the Indian Constitution underwent significant modifications with the inclusion of two pivotal acts in 1992. The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act introduced Article 243D, while the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act introduced Article 243T. These constitutional amendments played a crucial role in granting reservations for women in Panchayats and Municipalities respectively.

Building on this, the Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill, 1996 was introduced in the Eleventh Lok Sabha with the aim of reserving at least one-third of seats in the House of the People and State Legislative Assemblies for women through direct elections.

During the legislative process, the bill underwent careful examination by the Joint Committee of Parliament. This committee put forth recommendations that included expanding the scope of reservation to situations where the number of seats in a State or Union Territory fell below three.

However, the Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill expired with the dissolution of the 11th Lok Sabha. As a result, the Lok Sabha witnessed the introduction of the Constitution (84th Amendment) Bill, 1998, on December 14, 1998. This bill aimed to allocate reserved seats for women in the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi for a duration of fifteen years.

Regrettably, the bill expired due to the dissolution of the 12th Lok Sabha.In the year 1999, the Lok Sabha witnessed the introduction of the Constitution (85th Amendment) Bill on December 23rd. However, the bill failed to make progress due to a lack of agreement among political parties.

Another notable attempt was made in 2008 when the bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha, successfully passed in 2010. Unfortunately, it could not be approved in the Lok Sabha as it expired with the dissolution of the House.


Will the Women Reservation Bill lead to a significant increase in the number of women in Parliament and State Assemblies?

At present, the Lok Sabha consists of 542 members, with a mere 78 (14.39%) being women. Last year, the government revealed that the average representation of women MLAs in State Assemblies across the country is a mere 8%. However, both the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies will now experience a rise in the number of female members, with State Assemblies witnessing a more noticeable increase.


When will this be put into action?

According to a provision in the new Bill, the reservation of seats for women in Parliament, State Assemblies, and the Legislative Assembly of Delhi will begin after a process called delimitation is carried out. This delimitation will happen once the relevant data from the first census after the Constitution (128th Amendment) Act 2023 is finalized and published.

Right now, it’s uncertain when the Census, which was supposed to happen in 2021, will actually be completed. Additionally, the government has mentioned that the next delimitation may not occur until after the first census following 2026, as current laws state. Considering all of these factors, it is probable that the implementation will not occur until after 2029.

And, if we trust what political experts like Yogendra Yadav, the leader of Swaraj India, say, it might not happen until 2039, which is more than 15 years from now.


Analysis of the Women’s Reservation Bill: Main Concerns

People are debating the reservation policy. Some say it’s needed to help women. Recent research shows that reservation empowers women and ensures resources are allocated fairly.

Others argue that it may keep women unequal by not letting them compete on merit. They think this distracts from more important issues like stopping criminals in politics and improving democracy within parties.

Reserving seats in Parliament for women limits voter choice. Some experts suggest reserving seats for women within political parties and having two members in each seat.

However, if reserved seats change after every election, MPs may not feel motivated to work hard for their area, since they might not get re-elected.

In the past, a report on the Women’s Reservation Bill suggested reserving seats for Other Backward Classes (OBC) women and in the Rajya Sabha and Legislative Councils. But the current Bill does not include these suggestions.


What Does The Woman’s Bill Say?

The proposed legislation, comprising six pages, mandates that a third of the Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats will be reserved for women. These seats will be filled through direct elections. It is important to note that this reservation does not apply to the Rajya Sabha or state legislative councils.

Additionally, within this specified quota, one-third of the seats will be exclusively reserved for individuals belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

However, it’s worth mentioning that the bill doesn’t include any reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) because there is currently no such provision for them in the legislature. This was the reason for opposition from the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal in the past, and they raised the same concern this time as well.

Once enacted into law, the reservation stipulated by the bill will be valid for a period of 15 years, with the potential for extension. It is important to highlight that the designated seats will be periodically rotated following each delimitation exercise.

Women’s Reservation Bill Sails Through Lok Sabha
On Wednesday, August 20, 2023, something very significant happened in the Lok Sabha. The Women’s Reservation Bill received overwhelming support, with a large majority of 454 members voting in favor, while only two members opposed it. This bill was initially introduced by the Congress-led UPA government 13 years ago, and it is now scheduled to be presented in the Rajya Sabha today, September 21, 2023.

There is a strong likelihood of the bill successfully advancing through this subsequent phase. The ruling party, BJP, expresses confidence in securing the backing of specific opposition parties. This development brings promising news for the advancement of women’s empowerment and promoting gender equality within our country.


Final Words
The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam 2023, commonly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, was approved by a significant majority in the Lok Sabha, with 454 votes in favor and just two opposing it. If it also clears the Rajya Sabha, as expected, this will be a significant step towards women’s empowerment and gender equality in India.