People's Democracy

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


No. 18

May 02, 2010

Muslim Women Support Women�s Reservation Bill


On April 15, a number of Muslim women�s organisations and the All India Democratic Women�s Association issued the following joint statement on the women�s reservation bill. On the same day, women�s organisations staged a dharna at Jantar Mantar in new Delhi to press the issue.

WE, the women from various organisations working for the rights of Muslim women in India, demand that the 33 per cent women�s reservation bill be passed in the Lok Sabha in the current session of parliament. The passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha has been a significant step, but it cannot become law unless it is passed in the Lok Sabha and is endorsed by at least 15 state assemblies. 

Mandatory reservations for women in panchayats and local bodies have facilitated the entry of lakhs of women in villages, small towns and cities, into the political arena. As a result, a large number of Muslim women also had the opportunity for the first time to enter the public sphere from which they had been absent. Today, Muslim women are actively carrying out their responsibilities as sarpanchas, panchayat members, BDC members, ZP chairpersons and members, town area chairpersons, mayors and councillors in the states of India. They have faced tremendous odds to enter the electoral fray and many of them are role models for their community and for all women. This has brought many important women�s issues on the agenda of panchayats and local bodies. This positive experience needs to be strengthened and extended further.

Those opposed to the women�s reservation bill in its present form are demanding sub-quotas for women from different socially deprived categories, including Muslim women. Since quotas cannot be restricted only to women and since reservation on the basis of religion remains a question yet to be settled within the constitutional framework, such demands will continue to delay passage of the bill as they have already done for 14 years. Some of those opposed to the bill in the name of sub-quotas also say that if reservation for women is reduced from 33 per cent, they will support the bill. This exposes the hollowness of their demand for sub-quotas, which is only being used to block women�s reservation. The anti-women remarks being made from these quarters further confirm the patriarchal nature of this opposition.

While, the gross under-representation of Muslims in legislatures, of both men and women, needs to be redressed, this can hardly be resolved or settled within the ambit of the women�s reservation bill. The Ranganath Mishra commission recommendations have opened the issue of minority reservations in education and jobs. We demand the immediate provision of 10 per cent reservation in education and jobs for Muslims belonging to the backward classes. The central government must also implement the special development plans for minorities as recommended by the Sachar committee and ensure that the needs of Muslim women and girls are addressed when this is done. As women we stand in solidarity with our Muslim brethren and secular forces in the fight for the advancement of the Muslim community and we also stand shoulder to shoulder with all our sisters in the country for the advancement of the rights of women.

We call upon all political parties in parliament to come together and ensure the smooth passage of the 33 per cent women�s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha without delay. We appeal to all forces opposing the bill to shed their fears and support the cause of women�s rights and equality in our country. 

The signatories to the statement were Zakia Soman (Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan), Azra Aabdi (Muslim Women�s Forum), Qudsia Anjum (Parcham), Rehana (Astitva), Naish Hasan (Tehreek), Khatoon Shiekh (Hukook-e-Niswan), Nishat Hussain (National Muslim Women Welfare Society), Razina Khatoon (Muslim Women Welfare Society), Sabiha Hussain (Vishwas Mahila Samiti), Naaz Raza (Bahin), Sarvar Raza (Nigehban), Sajida (Initiative for Social Upliftment), Anjum Zaheer (Janhit Vikas Samiti), Asma (Asaman Mahila Utthaan evum Jan Kalyan Samiti) and Subhashini Ali (All India Democratic Women�s Association).