[Following editorial has been published in The Hindu on 8th March 2016. Read through it and try to answer the questions that follow. Please do not copy and paste answers. The objective of this exercise is to get you in the groove of answer-writing. Try to write in your own words. Don't hesitate to write in a bulleted-format, if you are uncomfortable in writing in paragraph form.]
By clockwork precision, talk about the Women’s Reservation Bill has duly floated in ahead of March 8, International Women’s Day. President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari have called for reviving the Constitution (108th) Amendment Bill to reserve for women one-third of seats in Parliament and the State legislatures. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been less forthcoming in revealing whether his government has any plans to pilot the Bill through the Lok Sabha. This is particularly disappointing. The Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha in March 2010 amid obstructive theatrics from parties such as the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party, but also with an unusual level of cooperation among the national parties, especially the Congress, which was leading the United Progressive Alliance government, and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Thereafter they could not — or would not — overcome similar odds in the Lok Sabha to deliver on their stated support for the Bill. Six years on, Mr. Modi’s BJP commands a clear majority in the Lok Sabha. It is therefore in a position not only to get the Bill passed by mopping up the support of just a few more MPs, but also to force the Congress and the Left into reaching out across the aisle in a polarised Parliament to affirm fidelity to a long-voiced promise. Every session of Parliament must serve as a reminder that the real stumbling block to the Bill has not been political from parties opposed to it, but essentially patriarchal within the very same parties that have affirmed support to it.
In the two decades since it was first presented in Parliament, different governments have tried clearing it but faced tremendous opposition, often accompanied by manhandling and name-calling. It is obvious that despite the pretty speeches and public posturing, the political space in the country, regardless of the ideological divide, is uniformly and strongly chauvinistic. Opposition to the Bill has often taken the form of a demand for the proposed quota to be diced along other parameters of disadvantage, such as caste and class. Additionally, resistance has been rationalised as a caution that women’s quota would be appropriated by relatives and proxies of powerful politicians, neatly ignoring the fact that such a reality could well obtain with regard to male legislators too. Women need to overcome gender prejudice firstly in their respective parties before entering the wider electoral fray. It is also a sign of lack of seriousness on the Bill that parties have not taken up a considered discussion of the impact of the rotation of reserved constituencies envisioned, and purposefully debate its merits against suggestions for double-member constituencies, proportional representation and mandatory women’s quotas for parties while announcing candidate lists for elections. To have more women in legislatures and the government is a big step towards empowering women in society. The experience of several village panchayats that have women as effective leaders bears testimony to this fact. Affirmative action of this kind is the best way to usher in social and gender justice.
1. What is Women's Reservation Bill? Why do you think that our country requires such kind of bill to be passed?
2. Do we have examples of legislatures in different countries which ensure reservation for women? If yes then which all?
3. Why is it said that our Indian society is patriarchal? Explain with examples? Are there any communities in India which are matriarchal? If yes then which all?
4. What is a Constitution Amendment Bill? What is the significance of the number 108 in the above mentioned bill? Does that mean our constitution has been amended at least 108 times?
5. What is the rationale being put forth by few parties against the Women Reservation Bill? Do you think their logic is just? Why or why not?
6. What are various options/alternatives being put forth in order to increase the representation of women in legislatures? Analyse their feasibility?
7. What is meant by Affirmative Action? What is its purpose?
8. Its true that women should be equally represented as men in the Parliament and state assemblies but ensuring this through reservation would bring in only cosmetic changes. Do you agree? Justify (200 words)