Women’s Reservation in the Parliament

In the recent past there have been a lot of debate on the reservation of women in the Parliament and a bill on Women’s Reservation has been promulgated in the parliament. There have been many reasons advanced for passing the bill such as:

  • 50% of the population are women, hence reservation should be there in the Parliament: As per Aristotle, democracy is akin to freedom, a freedom to rule and be ruled. “But one factor of liberty is to govern and be governed in turn; for the popular principle of justice is to have equality according to number, not worth, … And one is for a man to live as he likes; for they say that this is the function of liberty, inasmuch as to live not as one likes is the life of a man that is a slave.” In essence, freedom to be elected is an important canon of democracy and reserving seats in the parliament is a blow to this canon and counterproductive to democracy. Reasons such as 50% of the population are women is not a correct way of looking at it. In India, there are no restriction on women to contest elections and canvassing for the same. As democracy is based on the concept of liberty and choice, let the people choose whosoever they feel are the best candidates to represent them.

Having a reservation, takes away the liberty of choice from the people and also the liberty to be elected to represent the public, which is against the philosophy of democracy.

On another note, taking the above reasoning further, as 25% of the Indian population are children, why should we not reserve seats for them in the parliament?

  • There is no political representation of women in the parliament: India being an indirect democracy, has elected representatives who control the law making process. The elected representatives need to do as directed by the electorate as they are representing them. In case of India, over the last few elections, the percentage votes of men and women are:

 

General Election Year

Men (% votes)

Women (% votes)

1999

40.01%

59.99%

2004

41.93%

58.07%

2009

45.8%

54.2%

 

The dominant group from the above data is clearly the women of India, as they are nearly 60% of the voters, and not the men. Hence, women exercise more political representation than men as is evident from the voter data above. Women have themselves elected their representatives to the parliament and stating that they donot have an equal representation is incorrect as it is primarily their representatives in the parliament.

  • Women own just 1% assets of the world: How is owning just 1% assets a proof of ability to be elected to the parliament? Further, this number is used in many places but no source for the same is ever given. As per an estimate, the consumption of assets (real estate and jewellery) per year between men and women in India is about US$ 40.8 bn for men and US$ 58.5 bn for women. If they consume more assets than men then how come they hold only 1% of the assets? Further, this reasoning does not have any bearing on the discussion at hand.
  • Women’s voice is not heard: Again this is a misplaced argument. The government has special ministry just for Women’s Welfare and also many NGOs are funded for the development of women and to hear their voice. The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) has been formed by the government of India. As per the website of MoWCD “the broad mandate of the Ministry is to have holistic development of Women and Children. As a nodal Ministry for the advancement of women and children, the Ministry formulates plans, policies and programmes; enacts/ amends legislation, guides and coordinates the efforts of both governmental and non-governmental organisations working in the field of Women and Child Development”. Another statutory organization working for women development is The National Commission for Women (NCW) whose mandate includes, “review the Constitutional and Legal safeguards for women, recommend remedial legislative measures, facilitate redressal of grievances and advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women”. Therefore, stating that women’s voice is not heard is an incorrect reasoning as there are ample constitutional machineries for the same.
  • Reserving seats in the parliament is a tool for women empowerment and upliftment: India has about 11% women in the parliament. Pakistan has a reservation in its parliament for women and has a 17.5% women representation. Do let me know if Pakistan’s ranking in women empowerment and freedom is higher than India. United States does not have any reservations for women in their house of representatives, do women there have no empowerment and freedom?

Reservation in the parliament is not a method and correct way to improve women empowerment and freedom. These objectives are best achieved by way of primary, secondary and tertiary education. India is already focused on education for both the genders, you may refer to the article Higher Education: Gender Biasness Myth for a further discussion.

 

One of the noteable feature of the Indian Constitution as compared with the Government of India Act, 1935 (which was passed by the British) was the abolition of communal elctorates, which the British had incorporated in the 1935 Act. Our forefathers adopted the ideology of no voting on communal lines in the Indian Constitution in the interest of national fraternity and solidarity. The vice of communal voting and reservations was abolished with the Indian Constitution. Therefore adding reservation based on gender in the parliament not only vitiates the ideology of our founding forefathers, which they had for independent India, but also infringes upon the liberty of the Indian people. Such a reservation, in essence, is a step backwards in democracy and against the vision of our learned forefathers. Reservations may also cause a deterioration in the quality of leaders/representatives as then the electorate may have to choose between sub-optimal candidates.

Let us all Stand Up for a Cause…

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3 Responses to Women’s Reservation in the Parliament

  1. JB says:

    Wonderful analysis done by the writer.

    Absolute spotless logic, by giving any reservation under People’s Representation Act, you are taking away the very basic constitutional right to Choose the representative of your choice.

    Also, looking at the number of female voters being average 7-10% higher than men, have all women candidates won? So, when female voters have themselves not trusted female politicians, why is such a Anti Constitutional Rights Act being pushed?

  2. Good informative article

  3. Reservation of sets in parliament for women wud bring up sub-optimal candidates. I’m sure nobody wud want so. Genuine women with talent and patriotism wud naturally get elected.

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