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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : From women’s reservation to gender equality



Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Women reservation, Parliament, Inter-Parliamentary Union, Census, delimitation, Urimai Thogai scheme etc
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services related to Education and women empowerment etc


  • Parliament passed the women’s reservation Bill, which provides one-third reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies




Key Features of the Bill

  • Reservation for Women in Lower House: The Bill provided for inserting Article 330A to the constitution, which borrows from the provisions of Article 330, which provides for reservation of seats to SCs/STs in the Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill provided that reserved seats for women may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in states or Union Territories.
  • In the seats reserved for SCs/STs, the Bill sought to provide one-third of the seats to be reserved for women on rotational basis.

Reservation for Women in State Legislative Assemblies:

  • The Bill introduces Article 332A, which mandates the reservation of seats for women in every state Legislative Assembly.
  • Additionally, one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs must be allocated for women, and one-third of the total seats filled through direct elections to the Legislative Assemblies shall also be reserved for women.

Reservation for Women in NCT of Delhi ( New clause in 239AA):

  • Article 239AA to the constitution grants special status to the Union Territory of Delhi as national capital with regards to its administrative and legislative functioning.
  • Article 239AA(2)(b) was amended by the bill accordingly to add that the laws framed by parliament shall apply to the National Capital territory of Delhi.
  • Commencement of Reservation (New article – 334A):
    • The reservation will be effective after the census conducted after the commencement of this Bill has been published.
    • Based on the census, delimitation will be undertaken to reserve seats for women.
  • The reservation will be provided for a period of 15 years. However, it shall continue till such date as determined by a law made by Parliament.

Rotation of Seats:

  • Seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation, as determined by a law made by Parliament.


Data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union:

  • The share of women in Parliament in India is around 15%.
  • India ranks 141 out of 193 countries on this count.
  • Pakistan, South Africa, and Kenya have a higher share of women representatives.


Positive Impact of Women reservation:

  • Reservation for women in elections to the local bodies resulted in increasing their participation in governance.
  • Research by Tanya Jakimow of the University of New South Wales and Niraja Gopal Jayal: It shows that, contrary to popular belief, elected women representatives have over time asserted their presence in spite of interference from male family members.
    • A similar outcome may also be seen in higher elected bodies.



  • Implementation of the present law is contingent on the conduct of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise.
  • Census and delimitation are not purely administrative eventualities.
  • There has been a freeze on delimitation since 1976 in order to provide a level-playing field for States to contain population growth.
  • States which have improved indicators around women empowerment would now stand to lose seats to Parliament if a delimitation exercise is held.
  • Legality of the contingency clause: Whether a law can be contingent upon an uncertain future event requires determination by the constitutional courts.
  • The law is tied to another future law which may not be dealt with until after the next general elections to the Lok Sabha.


What steps need to be taken?

  • The ultimate game changer lies in changing societal approaches to gender roles.
  • Representation of women to elected bodies must necessarily be seen in the larger context of female labor force participation in India, which is abysmal by any standards.
  • Real and substantive gender justice will only be achieved when there is an equitable and fair sharing of household chores and domestic responsibilities.
  • Recent research from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s Time Use Survey (2019): It shows that for 97 minutes spent daily by men on unpaid domestic services for household members, women spend 299 minutes.
    • Women spend 134 minutes on average daily on unpaid care-giving services for household members as compared to the 76 minutes spent by men.
    • The patriarchal societal mindset needs to change if women are to fully and effectively participate in the labor force and hold the highest elected representative positions.
  • Government programmes which recognise unpaid labor done by women within households
    • Example: Magalir Urimai Thogai in Tamil Nadu, are designed to recognise and address the vast gulf in unpaid household labor.
    • The Urimai Thogai scheme is a monthly cash transfer programme.
    • It is devised not as a largesse but as an obligation to women who carry a disproportionate burden in the household.


Way Forward

  • Initiatives in other countries offer an interesting case study on sustaining women in the political arena.
    • EMILY’s List in the U.S. has been providing campaign guidance, mentorship and building capacity for women as they enter politics.
    • EMILY’s List has helped elect 201 members of Congress (equivalent to the House of the People) and 20 Governors (similar to the Chief Minister).
  • Regardless of whether political parties actively groom women leaders, it is now the duty of the governments to build capacity and ensure that the reservation model leads to successful outcomes.
  • The role of the National Commission for Women and the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women need to be significantly revised to ensure that the women reservation law does not remain a symbolic gesture.
  • The recognition of unpaid labor and equitable sharing of household duties will ultimately dictate whether substantive reform in gender equality is achieved.



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