Why India Needs the Women’s Reservation Bill
Nine out of ten parliamentarians in India are men. Such dismal figures reveal the lasting grip of unfavourable social norms. Women’s disadvantage on a complex set of social and economic factors effectively keeps them at the margin of political life. Six decades have gone by since Independence brought hopes that democracy would equilibrate gender representation; two decades ago, reservations opened local bodies to women. Major parties have since championed a bill that would extend reservations to the Lok Sabha, and the state legislative assemblies; the proposed law even made it through the Rajya Sabha. But the gender imbalance at higher political levels remains unaddressed. After decades of delays and posturing, it is time to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. Experience at local level and in other countries provides enough evidence to challenge the most frequent criticisms against the bill and address some of the foreseeable roadblocks in its implementation.