People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 25

June 29 , 2008


Women's Reservation Bill

Women's Organisations Call For Support From All Sections Of Parliament

Leading women's organisations AIDWA, AIWC, GOS, JWO, and NFIW have jointly issued the following statement on June 19, 2008

WOMEN'S organisations that have been engaged in the struggle for the passage of the 33 per cent women's reservation bill have strongly condemned the statement issued by the leader of the Samajwadi Party, Mulayam Singh Yadav.  He has accused the government of rushing the passage of the bill in an underhand way and has said that its passage will 'change the character' of parliament for the worse, that it will exclude representatives of the poor and farming communities and that the record of women in the panchayats and local bodies has proven that they are not capable of playing an independent role.

The truth of the matter is that Mulayam's logic is faulty on all counts.  Far from the bill's passage being 'rushed' it has been stalled for eleven long years since it was first unanimously finalised by a select committee of parliament headed by Smt Gita Chatterjee.  Since 1996, the bill has been stone-walled by members of his party and other opponents under one pretext or another.  As far as the change for the worse in the character of parliament and exclusion of the poor and of farming communities from parliament are concerned, the experience not only of other countries but even of our own is completely contrary to this.  All over the world now, thanks to statutory provisions enacted to ensure a certain percentage of women legislators, women belonging to all communities and social strata in poor countries like Nepal, Afghanistan, Rwanda etc., and in developing countries like South Africa, Latin American countries etc., are now able to play a tremendous role as public representatives.   In our own country, of 50 women MPs, 60 per cent belong to the SC, ST, OBC and minority communities. In the state assemblies, representation of these sections among elected women is even higher.  The discrimination is not between different groups of women but between men and women since very few women are given party tickets to contest elections.

As far as the women representatives in the panchayati raj institutions and local bodies are concerned, in a very short period of time, elected women have played such a positive role that they now occupy more than 40 per cent of the total seats in many states.

We would like to point out that if studies were carried out on the performance of elected male members, perhaps the findings would not be very positive in a large number of cases.

As far as the contentious question of “quota within a quota” is concerned, we would like to point out that neither Mulayam Singh Yadav nor any other leader has ever brought a proposal to give reservations to different sections of society including religious minorities to be debated and decided upon in the parliament.  Once the bill is passed, if parliament in its wisdom decides to give reservation to any social groups that will naturally be reflected in the 33 per cent seats reserved for women.

In conclusion, we would like to state that women's movements have always supported the cause of social justice and also reservations being extended to the OBCs in jobs and educational institutions while SC/ST rights are continued.  It is unfortunate that leaders like Mulayam Singh who are symbols of the struggle for social justice do not favour including women of all castes and communities within its beneficiaries.

All of us hope that, as has been the tradition of parliament, women's rights and their right to representation will be supported by all sections of the House and that the bill will be passed.