Everything you need to know about the Women's Reservation Act of 2023

Women's political empowerment is properly seen as a potent and essential tool for eradicating prejudice and gender inequity. 

What constitutes the Women's Reservation Bill's primary characteristics? 

The proposed bill would grant women a 33% reservation in the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, and Delhi's National Capital Territory. The seats set out for SC and ST will also have similar reservations. According to the proposed bill, the reservation would last for 15 years. After every exercise in delineation, the seats designated for women will be switched. 

What procedures must be followed in order for this Bill to finally become law? 

First, the Bill must be approved by a special majority in both chambers of Parliament. After then, the Constitution Amendment Bill must be ratified by at least 50% of the States in accordance with the terms of Article 368. Since it affects their rights, we need to get their permission. 

What is the background to this Bill? (When and how was this initially proposed, and how did this develop?) 

Women's political empowerment is properly seen as a potent and essential tool for eradicating prejudice and gender inequity. Articles 243D and 243T were added to the Constitution as part of the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act of 1992 and the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act of 1992, respectively, to provide for reservations for women in Panchayats and Municipalities. The Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill, 1996, which sought to reserve at least one-third of the total number of seats filled by direct election in the House of the People and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States for women, was the next step in this direction. It was introduced in the Eleventh Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996. 

 The aforementioned Bill was sent to the Joint Committee of Parliament, which improved some of its provisions by extending the provision of reservation for women even in circumstances when a State or a Union territory had fewer than three seats available. However, with the dissolution of the 11th Lok Sabha, the Constitution (81st Amendment) Bill, 1996, as reported by the Joint Committee, became ineffective. 

By introducing the Constitution (84th Amendment) Bill, 1998 in Lok Sabha on December 14, 1998, an effort was made once more to grant women quotas in the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi for a period of fifteen years beginning with the proposed enactment. The stated Bill expired when the 12th Lok Sabha was dissolved. 

On December 23, 1999, the Constitution (85th Amendment) Bill, 1999, was introduced in Lok Sabha, constituting yet another effort. However, this Bill had also not been pursued because the political parties were unable to come to an agreement. The Bill was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2008 by the administration of the time, Manmohan Singh, and was eventually approved in 2010. It then became property of the Lok Sabha, which was dissolved, thus it could not be passed and expired. 

Will this result in a sharp rise in the representation of women in the state and federal legislatures? 

There are 542 members in the Lok Sabha at the moment, 78 (14.39%) of them are women. The average percentage of women MLAs in Assemblies across the country is only 8%, according to the government's response to a parliamentary query late last year. Now, the number of female members in both the Lok Sabha and the States/UTs assembly will increase, but the increase in the States/UTs will be more pronounced. 

When will this probably be put into practice? 

"The provision of the Constitution relating to the reservation of seats for women in the House of the People, the Legislative Assembly of a State, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi 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 (128th Amendment) Act 2023 have been published," reads one of the provisions of the new Bill. 

Currently, it is unclear when the Census, which was scheduled to be completed in 2021, would be finished. At the same time, the administration has already said that the subsequent delimitation exercise may be carried out following the first census to be held after the year 2026, in accordance with current law. Considering everything, implementation cannot happen until 2029. 

Will passing this Bill provide any challenges? 

The Constitution Amendment Bills must be approved by a majority of all members of each House of Parliament, as well as by a majority of not less than two-thirds of those members who are "present and voting" in each House. There should be no difficulty in passing the Bill given that the majority of political parties are in favor of it. The same holds true for all the States and the UT of Delhi.

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