Women’s Reservation: A Forlorn Hope
“An International Labour Organization study indicates that” While women represent 50 percent of the world adult population and a third of the official labour force they perform nearly two-third of all working hours, receive a tenth of world income and own less than one percent of world property”. Therefore, reservation for women is not a bounty but only honesty recognition of their contribution to social development.”
“Men have already made a mess of the world. Let them quit the field and make way for women.” This what a lady member of the Lok Sabha said one day during a discussion on the Women’s Reservation Bill. There has been a strong demand from a section of the society to reserve at least 33 percent seats for women in the legislative bodies as in the Panchayats, Municipal Corporations, State Assemblies, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Even though the demand has already been accepted and implemented in the case of the local bodies, it has yet to be accepted in the case of the other state and national level legislative bodies.
Besides the women themselves, several political parties are also strongly supporting this idea of reservation of seats for women. They argue that even since the creation of this world, women have always been at the receiving end. They have been exploited and burdened with the household duties and prevented from having a free, independent life or status of their own. They were confined to the four walls of the house, kept behind the veil and used as nothing more than sex dolls with the advance of civilization, women have proved their worth and left men far behind in several fields. Some of them have inspired their male partners to do wonders in their respective fields. It is because of this only that it is said that behind every successful man there is a woman that makes him achieve great heights. In spite of all this women continue to be discriminated. Many a female foetus is destroyed and not allowed to see the light of the day. A majority of the female children are still not being sent to schools and are being deprived of their right to education. Male chauvinists continue to treat them as inferior being fit only to look after children or household affairs.
All this has led to strong realization that women should be given their proper place and status in the society. This can be possible if they are provided some powers to overcome their own destiny. That is why the demand for reservation of seats for women in the state assemblies and the parliament is gaining strength day by day. The government is seriously attempting to bring a law for the purpose but some groups opposed to the idea are trying to get it postponed. They have so far been able to scuttle the move to introduce the Women’s Reservation Bills in the Parliament. The day is not far when this legislation would be enacted and women will get their rightful place and power in the social set-up of this country.
Those who oppose the idea of reservation for women say that family life in the country would be totally upset if women are called upon to work in such large numbers. Moreover, women, they say, are likely to exploit others or are more prone to be exploited by the men folk. They think that once woman start asserting their rights they would lose the traditional respect they command in the society. Some women who are already occupying top positions in the country openly say that they do not need the crutch of reservation and that they would go ahead in life on their own. Some people express the fear that if women are given thirty-three percent seats through reservation, they may grab another thirty-three percent in the open competition on their own merit. The legislative bodies would, in that case, become heavily loaded in favour of the fair sex only. Although some believe that the presence of women in the decision making bodies would lend them grace, decency and decorum, others say that it would only bring in glamour, indecency and scandal Mongering.
While the struggle for women’s empowerment goes on, one must, however, not forget that though numbers and percentages are fundamental, it is ultimately number coupled with the correct world-view that can go a long way to strengthen the movement for women’s liberation. Hence, it is finally the struggle of the working class and the toiling women that must benefit from women’s quota. For the women who have made history without portfolios and reserved seats. Where women would be the contestants would expose better, the politics of ‘by women, of women, for women’ .
It is to be felt by the Indian politicians that they can no longer ignore the justified demand of reservation for the women in parliament and state legislature. Till the parliament is dominated by such MPs and lack of ‘will’ of determination with ruling party and no support from the other parties the 33% reservation for the women will remain a ‘Forlorn Hope’.