India backs quota for women in parliament, after 25-year delay

Lazy eyes listen


On Thursday, India’s upper chamber of parliament passed a law reserving one-third of seats in national and state legislative assemblies for women. Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the move as a “defining moment” in the country’s democratic history, noting the bill’s universal support.

Just a day after it passed the lower house, the Lok Sabha, with an overwhelming majority of 454 votes in favour and two against, all 215 members of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, voted in favour of the legislation.

A defining moment in our nation’s democratic journey! Congratulations to 140 crore Indians… With the passage of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam in Parliament, we usher in an era of stronger representation and empowerment for the women of India. This is not merely a legislation; it is a tribute to the countless women who have made our nation,” Modi said in a post on X (formerly Twitter). The chairman of Rajya Sabha, Jagdeep Dhankhar, and several top ministers in the Modi government, called the moment “historic.”

To become law, the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, will now need to be ratified by at least 50% of state legislatures.

The Act aims to ensure that one-third of seats in state and central legislative assemblies are designated for women, however it does not apply to the upper house of parliament or state legislatures. The allocation of seats for women is intended to be extended for another 15 years.

Although most political leaders have supported the Women’s Reservation Bill in principle, some critics have questioned the delay in its implementation, which is dependent on a delimitation exercise to redraw parliamentary and assembly constituencies based on a new national census, which was scheduled for 2021 but has been postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Article 82 of the Constitution, which was revised in 2002, the next delimitation exercise can be carried out based on the first census gathered after 2026, making implementation of the Women’s Reservation Bill possible only after 2029.

According to Indian Express, the delimitation process would redraw India’s electoral map by changing the number of seats each state receives in the lower house, boosting the overall number of Lok Sabha seats from 543 to around 840.

Addressing concerns about the bill, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah stated that a census will be performed soon after the 2024 elections in order to hasten its implementation. Meanwhile, Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi asked that the bill be enacted “immediately,” claiming that there was “no need for delimitation and census.”