People's Democracy

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


No. 7

February 22, 2009


Echoes Of Women’s Reservation Bill Outside Parliament

A united platform of various women’s organisations including AIDWA, Bandhua Mukti Morcha, BGVS- Samata, CCWI, CWDS, GOS, HRLN, JWP, Mata Sundari College, MWF, NACDOR, NFIW, Nirmala Niketan, Prayatan, PWESCR, Swasthik Mahila Samiti, Wada Na Todo, World Council Arya Samaj, YWCA of Delhi, YWCA of India demanded that women’s reservation bill be passed without delay. They further demanded a halt to the Sangh Parivar’s attacks on women in Karnataka. A demonstration was held on February 12, 2009 outside the Janatar mantar area near parliament with members subsequently meeting the speakers of both the houses.

Responding to the demand for the women’s reservation bill to be passed in the current session of parliament, vice president and Rajya Sabha chairperson Dr Hamid Ansari maintained that the positive outcome of 33 per cent reservation for women in local bodies was before the nation. In reply to the request by a delegation consisting of representatives of 22 women’s organisations to expedite the submission of the report of the parliamentary standing committee, he said the government would take note of the groundswell of opinion in favour of ensuring one-third reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures.

The delegation also met the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee requesting him to intervene to ensure the passage of the bill without further delay. They also met the chairperson of the parliamentary standing committee constituted to examine the 33 per cent women’s reservation bill, Dr E M S Natchiappan. The delegation requested him to preserve the original draft of the bill and to immediately table its recommendations before parliament. They asked him to ensure a proper debate on the 108th constitutional amendment bill and its passage without any dilution of its provisions during this session of parliament.

Brinda Karat, member of parliament, Rajya Sabha, reported the discussions held with the vice- president and the speaker to the women holding the demonstration. Members of parliament, Sathi Devi and C S Sujata were also part of the delegations. Amongst the speakers addressing the rally were Subhashini Ali (president, AIDWA), Annie Raja (general secretary, NFIW), Jyotsna Chatterjee (JWP). Nirmala Fenn and Kalpana David from YWCA, Sudha Sundararaman from AIDWA, Karuna Shrivastava from BGVS, Dr Suman Sharma from Guild of Service, Deepika Khan from Muslim Women’s Forum, Chinamma Jacob from Council of Catholic Women of India, Padmini Kumar from JWP were also part of the delegation.

The women shouted slogans, reminding the UPA government that more than five years had passed since its assurance in the common minimum programme to pass the women’s reservation bill. Women from Haryana, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, West Bengal and Maharashtra attended the rally. They castigated both the NDA and the UPA for keeping the bill pending in the name of a “consensus.” They resolved to continue their struggle till the bill was passed. The meeting also passed a resolution condemning the series of attacks by members of the Sangh Parivar on the rights of young women in Mangalore. It demanded that the central and state governments ensure the safety and security of young women and minorities.

A memorandum was submitted to vice president, speaker and chairperson, standing committee on the women’s reservation bill. It stated that a historic opportunity to strengthen the democratic character of parliament and state legislatures has been lost by not passing the bill in the 14th Lok Sabha. This failure has led to a very low presence of women in state legislatures and parliament. In the recent assembly elections conducted in six states, the percentage of women who have been elected is dismally low. The figures are Delhi – 4 per cent , MP - 11 per cent Chhattisgarh - 12 per cent, Rajasthan - 14 per cent, J&K - 2 per cent and Mizoram - 0 per cent (not a single woman elected). In parliament too, the under-representation of women remains a long standing injustice, with only 50 women MPs in the current Lok Sabha.

The bill was tabled in the Rajya Sabha, and referred to a parliamentary standing committee. However, the standing committee has not yet submitted its report to parliament. The memorandum urged that it should be asked to do so without further delay and that no move should be made to dilute the bill in the name of a consensus