Women reservation history of 27 years

  • Recently, government introduced Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, popularly referred to as the women’s reservation Bill to provide on-third reservation for women in Lok Sabha and state legislature.

The case of women reservation in India

  • The subject of a gender quota in legislative bodies was extensively discussed during the freedom movement.
  • While framing the Constitution, the women members in the Constituent Assembly did not pursue reservation as a means of ensuring women’s political participation on the grounds that it would limit women’s representation.
  • Renuka Ray made the following statement in front of the Constituent Assembly in July of 1947: “When there is reservation of seats for women, the question of their consideration for general seats, however competent they may be, does not typically arise.” If one only takes into account a person’s skills, then we believe that in the not-too-distant future, women in independent India will have more opportunities to find employment.
  • Unfortunately, the number of women representatives in legislatures remained abysmal even after decades of independence.
  • After the enactment of the 73rd and 74th constitutional amendments that reserved 33 per cent seats in panchayats and urban local bodies for women, the demand for gender quotas in legislative bodies gained steam.
  • Since 1996, multiple governments have introduced various versions of the women’s reservation Bill but failed to enact it as a law due to a lack of political consensus.
  • The UPA government tabled a women’s reservation Bill in Rajya Sabha in 2008 and passed it two years later with 186-1 votes.
  • The UPA came close to making the Bill a reality. However, when the Bill was sent to the Lok Sabha as per parliamentary procedure, it didn’t see the light of day due to opposition by various political leaders including UPA’s allies.
  • Being a property of the Lok Sabha, it lapsed upon the dissolution of the House in 2014.
  • Given the absolute majority the current government enjoys in Parliament, it is likely that the Bill will be enacted into law that ensures the fructification of this long-pending aspiration.

Provisions of the bill

  • It mandates 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha, the state Legislative Assemblies, and the Delhi Assembly.
  • It also reserves one-third seats for women within the existing SC and ST reservation.
  • Seats will be reserved on a rotational basis; and reservation will cease after 15 years.

Criticism of the bill

  • Abstruseness of the timeline for implementation.
    • The Bill merely reads that it shall come into effect “after an exercise of delimitation is undertaken for this purpose after the relevant figures for the first Census taken after commencement of the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Act, 2023 has been published”.
    • It doesn’t specify the cycle of elections from which women will get their due share.
    • However, Members of Parliament must move amendments and ensure that the final legislation defines a clear timeline.
  • Does not provide women’s reservation in the Rajya Sabha and state legislative councils.
    • The Rajya Sabha currently has lower representation of women than the Lok Sabha. Representation is an ideal that must be reflected in both the Lower and Upper Houses.
    • Government and members of Parliament must think about how this lacuna can be filled, and come up with appropriate measures to ensure no segment of the population is under-represented

Significance of the Bill

  • Historical Underrepresentation: Historically, women have been significantly underrepresented in India’s political landscape.
    • This underrepresentation perpetuates gender inequality as it restricts women’s ability to influence policies and decisions that affect their lives.
  • Political Empowerment: The Women’s Reservation Bill is a proactive measure to ensure that women have a fair opportunity to participate in the highest levels of decision-making in the country, promoting gender equality in politics.
  • Symbolic Importance: It signifies that Indian society recognizes and values the contributions of women in politics, sending a message that women’s voices and perspectives are essential in shaping the nation’s future.
  • Access to Political Arena: The Women’s Reservation Bill empowers women by granting them equal access to the political arena.
    • It breaks down traditional barriers and prejudices that may have discouraged women from entering politics in the past, such as social norms and lack of opportunities.
  • Enhancing Political Skills: As more women enter politics and gain experience, it helps in building their leadership and governance skills.
    • This empowerment extends beyond politics, as women who succeed in the political sphere can become role models for others, inspiring greater participation in various fields.
  • Policy Influence: Through political participation, women gain the power to influence policies that directly impact their lives and those of their communities.
    • This empowerment translates into tangible changes in areas such as healthcare, education, gender-based violence, and economic opportunities.
  • Addressing Gender-Specific Issues: Increased female representation in politics brings attention to gender-specific issues that may have been overlooked in the past.
    • Women often advocate for policies related to maternal health, childcare, gender-based violence, and economic opportunities that directly affect women and families.
  • Enhancing Decision-Making: Diverse perspectives lead to more comprehensive and balanced decision-making.
    • When women are actively involved in policymaking, the resulting laws and regulations are more likely to consider the needs and interests of the entire population, not just a segment of it.
  • Social and Cultural Change: Female political leaders can challenge traditional gender roles and norms, inspiring broader social and cultural change.
    • Their presence in politics can help break down stereotypes and create a more inclusive and gender-equal society.


  • The women of this country have waited for 27 years to see this Bill enacted.
  • Even though the current Bill is far from perfect, we can’t afford to wait another two decades.
  • Let’s welcome the government’s initiative to make women’s reservation a reality.
  • There are miles to go in achieving gender parity in politics and this is just the beginning