Not a political tool, but a Bill to empower women

Sep 23, 2023 01:32 AM IST

Political representation is a fundamental aspect of women’s empowerment, and the government has taken steps to increase the participation of women in politics

As I stood before the esteemed members of the Lok Sabha, I was filled with a sense of purpose and responsibility. We were there to discuss a matter of profound importance, one that has the potential to reshape the future of our nation – the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, commonly known as the Women’s Reservation Bill. This proposed constitutional amendment seeks to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies for women, a monumental step towards empowering women in the political sphere.

Rajya Sabha MPs vote on the Women's Reservation Bill during the Special Session of the Parliament, in New Delhi on Thursday. The bill was later passed in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. (ANI) PREMIUM
Rajya Sabha MPs vote on the Women's Reservation Bill during the Special Session of the Parliament, in New Delhi on Thursday. The bill was later passed in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. (ANI)

Even before my time, when the nation gained independence from slavery, many ordinary women from various regions had said that our constitutional rights should be protected. However, those visionary women from ordinary families who played their roles in the nation’s independence, who were far-sighted, knew that if ordinary women were not given a chance, it might become a challenge for them in the years to come. Today, I salute those visionary women.

In 1971, a committee was formed — Status of Women in India — and when the committee shared its report in 1974, in its seventh chapter, it was recorded that the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) had said that women should be given constitutional guarantees, and they advocated for reservations. Today, I express gratitude to those visionary thinkers of the BJS.

It is an honour for Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) karyakartas that the BJP became the first political party in this nation to provide reservations to women in their organisation.

In the course of this debate, we have witnessed claims and counterclaims regarding the authorship of the Women’s Reservation Bill. They say success has many fathers and failure has none. So, when the Bill came, some people called it “our Bill”, some people said they wrote letters on it, and some people said they set the entire constitutional framework.

However, it was also clarified by Congress leader Sonia Gandhi in Parliament that work on the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution was done by former Prime Minister (PM) PV Narasimha Rao. It is essential to recognise those who contributed to these vital amendments, and Rao’s name rightfully deserves a place in that history.

The Women’s Reservation Bill has been a contentious issue in Indian politics for decades. One of the key points of contention is the duration of the reservation. The Narendra Modi government has proposed that the reservation will continue for 15 years and seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise, ensuring a long-term impact.

In contrast, the Congress had proposed a women’s quota for only 10 years. They wanted to snatch the rights of women after 10 years. I express my gratitude to PM Narendra Modi and law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, who didn’t allow this desire of the Congress to become a reality.

In addition to addressing the reservation duration, it is essential to clarify certain constitutional provisions and legal aspects. Some have suggested including quotas for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and minority communities. However, it’s important to remember that reservations based on religion are explicitly prohibited by the Constitution.

I urge everyone to scrutinise the facts and recognise the government’s efforts to empower women through constitutional means. Our commitment to the Constitution and its dignity remains unwavering.

Political representation is a fundamental aspect of women’s empowerment, and the Modi government has taken steps to increase the participation of women in politics. Moreover, by advocating for women’s participation at various levels of governance, the Modi government is ensuring that the voices of women are heard in decision-making processes.

The Modi government has embarked on a transformative journey to empower women in India. Through comprehensive policies and targeted initiatives, the government has addressed critical areas such as education, health care, political representation, economic empowerment, and gender equality. The results speak for themselves, with significant reductions in school dropout rates, improved health care access, increased political representation, and enhanced economic opportunities for women.

Let us not forget the substantial budget allocations for women’s development. The increase in these allocations demonstrates our government’s dedication to helping women grow. Under PM Modi’s leadership, the dropout rate of girls in schools has reduced significantly. This underscores our commitment to empowering women not only politically but also through education and economic opportunities.

As India continues to progress on its path towards women’s empowerment, it is crucial to recognise the positive impact of these initiatives. While challenges persist, the government’s unwavering commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment serves as a beacon of hope for millions of women across the country.

Through education, health care, and political and economic opportunities, women in India are experiencing a newfound sense of agency and empowerment, contributing to the nation’s growth and development.

If we look at this Bill from the perspective of the dignity of our Constitution, then Goddess Lakshmi has taken a constitutional form through it. It symbolises the economic empowerment of women, a vital step towards women’s self-reliance and self-determination.

This Bill is not a political tool; it is a means to empower the women of our nation.

In conclusion, let us remember that this is not about taking credit or shifting blame. It is about recognising the historic opportunity we have before us — the opportunity to empower women, strengthen our democracy, and shape a brighter future for India. The time for action is now, and I implore each one of us to walk the talk and support nari shakti in its truest form.

Smriti Irani is Union minister for women and child development. The views expressed are personal

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