Women’s Reservation Bill: Stalled for nearly 3 decades passed the Parliament
After being stalled for nearly three decades, the women’s reservation bill has passed both houses of the parliament. Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, which seeks to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women, with unanimous support on 21st September 2023 (Thursday). This achievement followed the bill’s passing in the Lok Sabha the previous day.
With this landmark legislation, India takes a significant step towards ensuring gender equity in its political representation.
Near Unanimous Support in the Lok Sabha
Twenty-seven years after the women’s reservation Bill was first introduced in Parliament, the Lok Sabha on 20th September 2023 (Wednesday) passed a Bill with near unanimity, with the support of 454 Members of Parliament (MPs), to amend the Constitution and provide one-third reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
Unanimous Support in the Council of States
The women’s reservation Bill, known as the ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam,’ received overwhelming support in the Rajya Sabha. It secured an impressive 214 votes in favor, with none opposing it. Notably, there were no abstentions during the voting proceedings, which were presided over by Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar.
Both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were adjourned sine die, marking the conclusion of the special session of Parliament.
Prime Minister Modi’s Gratitude
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a special appearance in the Upper House before the voting process commenced. He expressed his heartfelt thanks to all members for their unwavering support for the Bill. In a post on social media platform X, Prime Minister Modi celebrated this moment as a defining one in India’s democratic journey, extending his congratulations to the nation’s 140 crore citizens. He acknowledged the unanimous backing of the ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ by Rajya Sabha MPs, emphasizing the significance of such widespread support.
Empowering Women: A Tribute to Resilience
Prime Minister Modi hailed the passage of the Bill as the initiation of an era marked by enhanced representation and empowerment for India’s women. He regarded it not merely as legislation but as a tribute to the countless women who have contributed to the nation’s progress. In his view, this momentous step underscores the strength, courage, and indomitable spirit of all Indian women.
The Prime Minister highlighted the government’s commitment to ensuring that the voices of women are heard more effectively in India’s democratic processes.
Amit Shah: A Historic Milestone
Union Home Minister Amit Shah lauded the passage of the Bill as a historic milestone on the path to equitable governance. He emphasized that Prime Minister Modi’s leadership sends a powerful message of gender equality and inclusive governance to the world. Shah expressed his heartfelt gratitude to Prime Minister Modi and extended congratulations to every citizen for this remarkable achievement.
Debate and Clarifications
During the debate in the Rajya Sabha, Union Law and Justice Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal questioned the sudden concern of the Congress for the OBC (Other Backward Classes) community, accusing the party of neglecting OBC reservation in the past. Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjuna Kharge, while supporting the women’s reservation Bill, sought clarity on the implementation timeline and the inclusion of OBCs.
Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman stressed the importance of building consensus for the economic and social empowerment of women. She responded to criticism about the timing of the Bill, explaining that the government had implemented various schemes for the socio-economic empowerment of women since 2014. Sitharaman listed key initiatives, such as Ujjwala, Beti Padhao Beti Bachao Yojana, and maternity leave enhancements.
Sitharaman also linked women’s empowerment to significant policy changes, including the Article 370 revocation and criminalizing instant triple talaq. She underscored the government’s commitment to justice for women.
Responding to queries about the delay in delimitation until 2026, Sitharaman clarified that constitutional provisions had frozen the date until 2000 and extended it to 2026 in 2002. She highlighted the importance of seat readjustments after each Census, not only in the Lok Sabha but also within states.
BJP’s Strong Advocacy for Women’s Reservation Bill
BJP President and Rajya Sabha member J.P. Nadda targeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for demanding OBC reservation within the women’s quota. Nadda underscored the BJP’s commitment to women’s empowerment and highlighted the significant representation of OBCs within the party. He acknowledged that the BJP had provided India with its first OBC Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
Nadda emphasized the BJP’s consistent support for the Bill and credited Prime Minister Modi for bringing it to a successful conclusion. He celebrated the rich tradition of women’s empowerment in Indian culture, highlighting the contributions of women scientists to ISRO’s missions.
The near-unanimous and unanimous passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha represents a watershed moment in India’s political landscape. This significant legislation not only reflects the nation’s commitment to gender equality but also acknowledges the vital role women play in India’s development. As the country moves forward with a strengthened commitment to women’s political representation, it marks a historic step towards a more inclusive and equitable democracy.
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