Marking the auspicious Ganesh Chaturthi, the parliamentarians shifted to the new parliament building in its special session. A lot of debates were floated ahead of the special session and the bills to be tabled by the ruling NDA government. Contrary to the debates the government on September 19, tabled the women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha. It provides one-third reservation to women in the lower house of Parliament, state assemblies and the Delhi legislative assembly.
This is not the first time that a bill demanding one-third representation of women in parliament has been tabled, there have been many instances but was never accomplished. It is likely that this time, the bill will be passed from both houses to become law after the President’s assent.
“Discussion on Women’s Reservation Bill happened for a long time. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s regime women’s reservation bill was introduced several times but there was not enough majority to pass the bill, and because of this, the dream remained incomplete. Today, God has given me the opportunity to take this forward,” PM Modi said in Lok Sabha.
Readers should know that India is not the only country to move a bill in the parliament to increase the representation of women in the legislature. There are many countries, most of them comprise our neighbouring countries. Globally women are underrepresented in the parliament, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) report published in 2018, only 24 percent of parliamentarians were women.
Countries that have adopted laws to increase women’s representation include the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Argentina and Nepal.
In the early 1990s, countries like the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh adopted legislation reserving seats for women in the parliament. In the Philippines, the representation is 28 percent, which is way greater than the global average of 25 percent. It provides the maximum representation to women in Southeast Asia.
Also, women comprise 50.88 percent of the government’s total human resources, and in career services, which includes professional, technical and scientific positions, women representation is at 57.59 percent in the Philippines.
In Bangladesh, the “Jatiya Sangsad” (also known as the House of the Nation), the supreme legislative body of Bangladesh, has 350 seats, including 50 seats reserved exclusively for women.
After 2002, around 17 percent of the seats in the National Assembly were reserved for women in Pakistan.
Among other Asian countries, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have 30 percent quota for women.
In Uganda, a seat from each of the 56 districts is reserved for women, resulting in an increase in women’s political representation in the parliament.
Other countries in the African continent which have women’s quota in their parliaments include 30 percent in Rwanda, 60 seats out of 443 in Sudan and 10 percent in Niger among others.
In Latin America, about 14 countries have constitutional quotas for women in the legislature. Other South American countries which have legislated quota systems for women include Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay and others.
In Europe, there are eight countries such as Portugal, Spain and France have constitutional provisions for reserving seats for women candidates.
Notably, in countries like France, and South Korea, a quota as high as 50 percent of the candidate list has been reserved for women. Countries such as Mexico, and Costa Rica have over 36 percent female representation in their national legislatures.
Also, women currently make up 44.8 percent of South Africa’s National Assembly. In 1991, the political party of the nation, the African National Congress (ANC), considered women’s quotas. By 1994, women made up 35.7 percent of the ANC’s elected representatives. As a result, women made up 25 percent of the membership of the National Assembly. In 2009, the ANC boosted women’s representation to 50 percent, which resulted in a 49.2 percent female representation in the South African National Assembly.