A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view – Henrik Ibsen.
It’s a dicey situation. Do you agree with Henrik? Most would, while most wouldn’t. It’s a free world, they say. Without beating around the bush any further, let us jump to the Women Reservation Bill. What is it? It is actually a bill which reserves 33 percent of the seats of the lower house of the parliament, i.e. the lok sabha, and the state legislative assemblies for women. Women already get 33 percent reservation in Gram Panchayat and municipal elections. Long and tedious efforts have been made to pass the women reservation bill which will extend their reservation to the parliament and legislative assemblies. The Women Reservation Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha by the Deve Gowda government on Sept 12, 1996. After a 14 year old journey, which included lot of chaos and scuffles in the Parliament, it was finally passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9th March, 2010.
The women reservation bill has been a raw political topic for many years now, even after it has been successfully passed. While some parties rallied hard to pass the bill, others vehemently opposed it. For the parties which supported the bill, women empowerment is the main issue. More women participating in politics and society are of utmost importance. Social norms in India being generally in favor of men, passing of this bill should provide equal terrain for the men and women to compete each other. Due to foeticide, infanticide and several other diseases, the sex ratio in India is quite alarming at 1.06 males per female. It is believed that the passing of the bill will improve the condition of women thus helping to attain a better sex ratio gradually. Just like the two sides of a coin, certain people also came up with reasons which indicated that the bill would do no good to the Indian society in general. Their arguments say that the increase in number of women’s seats would only benefit the elite classes of women to get selected and not the ones who need it more. Indeed, having self-centered women in place of men would not be much of a paradigm shift.
In any case, the bill has been passed. What remains to be seen is that if the 14 year old long struggle bears any fruit in the future. The question is, does reservation actually bring about freedom? In addition to caste-based affirmative action, gender-based affirmative action is gathering momentum, namely, reservation of seats for women in elected bodies. It is primarily for social reformers to deal with. Didn’t our constitution say ‘no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex…’? Is our government forgetting the basics of the constitution itself? These remain unanswered. The general mass, inherently doesn’t care who leads them, they elect any person who instills hope in their hearts. While a bill passed in the women’s favour is definitely a way forward, what remains to be seen is whether it will be acted upon.