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Womens reservation has been a contentious topic since it was first proposed in 1996 by the
Deve Gowda government, however no government has been able to pass it yet. 1 This fact cannot
be denied that there is clearly a very strong opposition to this bill, currently in the form of 108 th
Amendment to our constitution, and that many parliamentarians adopt a more than hostile
behavior towards this particular bill. The current version of the bill, the 108th Amendment, seeks
to reserve 33% of all seats in governing bodies at the Center, State and Local level. For
reservation in the Lok Sabha, one-third of all constituencies will be reserved for women on a
rotation basis, such that a constituency will be reserved for one general election and not reserved
for the following 2 elections.2

There are several reasons for low participation of women in political decision making bodies,
these include their political, social and economic marginalization, discriminatory government
policies and legislations along with the environment being rife with patriarchal notions that stifle
womens active participation in politics.3


Women in India have been facing a situation of manifold marginalization at many fronts,
primarily at those of economic and socio-political ones. Despite having a glorious past, which
gives us several mentions of women being at the helm of affairs in many affairs ranging from
ruling to education etc we have fallen to the days of gender segregation and systematized
marginalization. From a period of women owing property women were later denied property
rights and could only claim Stridhana (Womans wealth).4 Women form at least half of the
1 Womens Reservation Bill Lokniti <> accessed on
26 March 2015.

3 Centre for social research, Violence against Women in Politics

<> accessed on 28 March 2015.

4 Achla Sharma, Status of Women: A Socio-Historical Analysis in Different Ages of Indian Society
Research Journal of Language, Literature and Law (Vol 1, 10 January 2014).
population, but their situation has been rather grim, they have been denied opportunities of
growth in the name of religion, socio-cultural practices and the traditional rigidities and vices, all
causing the situation of women to touch its nadir and be utterly deplorable.

A constant prey to vices like segregation, purdah system, dowry system, child marriages, lack of
property rights, female infanticide and feticide and social evils, they also suffered from a
complete lack of individuality; economic concern also made their situation grim which often
came in the form of financial dependence on husband and in laws, domestic restrictions, and
unequal pay along with mass exploitation on the workplace. 5 The limited participation of women
in economic activity is also an extension of their traditional gender roles (nursing, teaching,or
labour intensive jobs requiring patience and delicate skills) with wages based on gender
discrimination. Largely part of the unorganized sector, deprived of the benefits of labour
legislation, insecurity leads to sexual exploitation at the workplace.6

To put things in perspective, let us look at some data, women are paid three-fourths of their male
counterparts for the same job, they are primarily employed in agrarian and unorganized sectors,
their percentage in the organized workforce in very low.7 Thus, we can conclude that the status of
women is closely related to their economic status, and this in turn depends upon the rights, roles
and opportunities for the participation in economic activieties.


The participation of women and their engagement in the field of politics can function as a gauge
to measure the flow of democratic ideals and their realization in a democratic polity. It is so
because the ideas of equality and freedom are fundamental to the democratic construct, the
participation of women in politics can not only be defined in terms of equality and freedom with
which women share power with men, but also in terms of liberty and freedom provided to

5 Socio-Economic Situation of Women In India.

6 Shyoma Sen, Contemporary Anti-Displacement Struggles and Resistances in India

conditions-struggles-for-land-and-womens-resistance/> accessed on 28 March 2015.

7 Socio-Economic Situation of Women In India.

women in the whole electoral process.8 However, the participation of women in the electoral
process has been quite paltry. In Indias bicameral legislature, having 545 members in the lower
house and 250 members in the Lower House, the women constituted 5.2% and 9.8% in lower
and upper houses respectively in the year of 1991. 9 In the present Lok Sabha, out of 545
members, only 60 are women- a shameful 1.1%. Out of these, 69.7% have relatives who are
already in politics. Thus, it would a gross understatement to say that the average woman is not
duly represented in the Parliament.10

It is not the government did not enact any laws to fortify the political situation of women in
India, apart from the constitutional provisions of equality in Article 14, no discrimination by the
state Article 15(1), equality of opportunity in Article 16 and equal pay for equal work in Article
39(D). In addition, it allows the state to make special provisions for women and children under
Article 15(3) along with formulating a National Policy for Women Empowerment in 2001.11


The Womens Reservation Bill was first introduced in the Parliament in 1996 by the H.D. Deve
Gowda government, but no government has successfully passed it yet. The current version of the
bill, the 108th Amendment, seeks to reserve 33% of all seats in governing bodies at the Center,
State and Local level.12 In 1996, the bill was introduced as 81st Amendment and later
reintroduced as the 84th constitutional amendment by Atal Bihari Vajpayees government in the
year 1998. Again, in 1999, the NDA government reintroduces the bill and later in 2002, the bill
fails to gain clearance from the parliament; 2003 was the year in which the bill was tabled twice

8 Praveen Rai, Electoral Participation of Women in India

9 Shirin Rai, Class, Caste and Gender- Women in Parliament in India International IDEA.

10 Womens Reservation Bill Lokniti <> accessed

on 28 March 2015.

11 Shirin Rai, Class, Caste and Gender- Women in Parliament in India International IDEA.

12 Womens Reservation Bill Lokniti <> accessed

on 28 March 2015.
and in the year 2008, the UPA government introduces the bill in Rajya Sabha to save it from
being lapsed.13

These are some main features of this proposed bill-

1. The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill seeks to reserve one-third
of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Legislative Assemblies. The
allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by such authority as prescribed by the

2. One third of the total number of seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes shall be reserved for women of those groups in the Lok Sabha and the State
Legislative Assemblies.

3. Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the States or

Union Territories.

4. Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of
this Amendment Act.14

5. The report examining the 1996 Womens Reservation Bill recommended that reservation
be provided for women of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) once the Constitution was
amended to allow for reservation for OBCs. It also recommended that reservation be
extended to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils. Neither of these
recommendations has been incorporated in the Bill.15

13 Dr. Rakesh K Singh, Womens Reservation (108th Constitutional Amendment) Bill

<> accessed on 28 March 2015.

14 Womens Reservation Bill[The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 2008]

45/> accessed on 28 March 2015.

15 India: The Womens Reservation Bill

<'s_Reservation_Bill> accessed on 28 March
To give effect to the abovementioned provisions, the bill proposed would amend the
constitutional provisions, some of them like that of 239AA, 331 and 333 and the insertion of the
articles of 330A, 332A and 334A along with several other changes in related enactments. 16 It is
the clause five of the bill that proposes to insert the Article 332A (1) in the constitution which
provides for reservation of women in the legislative assembly of each state.

The bill was quite influenced by the 73 rd and 74th amendment. While women will be accorded 33
percent reservation in Lok sabha and state assemblies for the first time after the passage of the
Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill 2010, they have been enjoying 33 percent quota in
panchyati raj institutions and various urban local bodies after passage of 73rd and 74th
amendments to the Constitution in 1993.17 In a background note, The Ministry of Law and justice
opined that in the past years, there has been a consistent demand for giving adequate
representation to women in parliament and state legislatures, such a demand finds support in the
73rd and 74th Amendment to the constitutions in the year 1992. 18 Some proponents of the bill
stress the necessity of affirmative action to improve the condition of women. Some recent studies
on panchayats have shown the positive effect of reservation on empowerment of women and on
allocation of resources.19


16 36th Report on 108th Amendment Bill 2008, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public
Grievances, Law and Justice 4.

17 Amendments to Empower Women (The Hindu 9 November 2010)

<> accessed
on 28 March 2015.

18 36th Report on 108th Amendment Bill 2008, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public
Grievances, Law and Justice 4.

19 Vikas Jaiswal, Constitutional Amendment Bills

bill> accessed on 28 March 2015.
The bill aims at eliminating gender inequality and gender discriminations by promoting the
participation of women in law-making process. The bills statement of Objects and reasons
clause states that political empowerment of women is rightly perceived as a powerful and
indispensable tool to reduce gender inequality and marginalization of women in social and
personal lives. Another expectation was that women would be adequately and proportionally
represented in the parliament and that this would usher in an era of equality and the realization of
the constitutional ideals.

Another expectation was that the legislature would actually be able to formulate laws and
policies, that once implemented would give rise to a more holistic approach towards
development of the country. This would be centered on the on the family sensitive approaches.
Another expectation might be that this move would reduce the influence of muscle and money
that regretfully plays an important part in the current electoral setup. This would also be able to
counter effectively the problem of nepotism which has percolated to the very buttress of the
political institution in India.