ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Belated but Welcome Beginning

A milestone in gender power-sharing has been passed, but the "quota-in-quota" has to be addressed.

The passing of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha on 9 March marks a historic turning point in the story of Indian democracy. The proposed legislation reserving one-third of all seats in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will finally enable Indian women to keep their “tryst with destiny”. Despite active involvement in the freedom struggle, women had a minuscule presence in Parliament in the era dominated by the Indian National Congress – a trend that continues to this day, with only 59 women members in the 15th Lok Sabha.

Encouraged by Mohandas Gandhi, women’s organisations rejected reservations during most of the 20th century. As this journal noted a decade ago (Women’s Studies Special, EPW, October 2000), only after long experience of entrenched resistance to women across the political spectrum has reservation been recognised as essential for inclusion. The euphoria at this hard-won success needs to be tempered by the realisation that there is still a long road ahead. The next milestone is for the Bill to be approved by the Lok Sabha as well.

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