Is the Women's Quota Bill motivated by genuine concern for gender equity?
Monday’s appalling bedlam in Rajya Sabha deserves to be condemned without any equivocation. MPs affiliated to Samajwadi Party, RJD, BSP could have stalled proceedings without making a spectacle of themselves and denigrating Parliament in so crude a manner.
Had Government insisted on tabling the women’s quota Bill, aimed at reserving 33 per cent parliamentary and Assembly constituencies for women, those opposed to the measure could have spoken and voted against the proposed amendment to the Constitution of India in both Rajya Sabha and, later, in Lok Sabha.
Like any other law adopted by Parliament, the women’s quota Bill, once enacted and signed into law by the President, can be (and must be) challenged in the Supreme Court as ultra vires of the Constitution. A Constitution Bench should decide its validity/legality.
The proposed law reserving legislative seats for women is bad in law. It should never have been proposed, leave alone pushed for adoption by Parliament.
The women's quota Bill flies in the face of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India to all citizens. Article 15 promises:
"Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.—(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them."If the Bill becomes law, it will:
.Remove all incentive to nurse constituencies;
.Sitting MPs will insist nomination for their own kith and kin.
.Institutionalise the Rabri Devification of politics.
If experience with reserving seats for women in panchayats and local bodies is any indication, the Bill should really be called the ‘Biwi-Beti-Bahu-Behen-Bhanji Bill’. We will have ‘proxy’ women MPs who will be no more than puppets on strings pulled by their husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law, brothers, uncles. The possibilities are truly mind-boggling.
This is not about political empowerment of women, but legitimising nomination of kith and kin. Democracies which have empowered women politically and liberated them from gender bias, discrimination and misery have achieved it through policy initiatives and not fraudulent legislation or bogus quotas.
Most important, it strikes at the very core of democracy: It restricts freedom of choice.
The women’s quota Bill is a travesty and a fraud on the Constitution.
Had the Congress and BJP not issued three-line whips and allowed a free vote, 90 per cent, if not more, of their MPs would have voted against the Bill. The fear of offending their leaders and inviting punitive disciplinary action, apart from the compulsion of being seen to be ‘politically correct’, has silenced MPs in Parliament. You should hear them speak in private.
Gender equity is better served through other measures. Not by bogus laws that will help perpetuate and perpetrate dynastic rule by another name.
If the Congress, the BJP and CPI(M) were genuinely concerned about the poor representation of women in State Assemblies and Parliament, as they raucously claim to be, they would have amended their respective party constitutions and made it mandatory for the inclusion of 33 per cent women in their list of candidates for elections (as has been suggested in the past and demanded by women members of these parties), with the proviso that constituencies would be selected by a random draw of lots to be conducted in the presence of independent observers, nominated by what are now referred to as civil society groups.
Meanwhile, we must remain vigilant against the shrill demands of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav for communal quota. It is entirely possible that Congress will cut a deal, grant communal quota, to get Bill through, and then claim credit for both ‘empowering women’ and ‘empowering Muslims’. Was Monday’s disruption stage-managed to include communal quota by way of forging ‘consensus’ as demanded by Lalu and Mulayam? Nothing can be put past the Congress.
Of course, if this were to happen, it would be interesting to watch how BJP responds. Without the BJP’s vote, the Bill can’t get through Rajya Sabha.
PS: The absurdity of the proposed law is best illustrated by Shahrukh Khan’s tweet, addressed to a television journalist:
“tell me is this bill a good thing or wot? sorry dont understand the details..need enlightening in 140 words please.”
The future of democracy in 140 words? As they say on twitter, ROTFLMAO.