As I write this, 7 unruly members of parliament belonging to errant political parties - the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal in particular, have been suspended for their pathetic conduct yesterday in the Rajya Sabha. These legislators were doing their worst to prevent the Women's Reservation Bill, which now enjoys a great degree of majority support in both Houses of the Indian Parliament. This post quickly brings out some facets about the idea of quota-based representation in legislatures all across the world.
As things stand now, India ranks exactly 100th in terms of women representation in the Chief legislature - the Lok Sabha in India's case. The percentage of representation for women is around 11%, much below the averages all across the world including parts of Sub-saharan Africa and just about mustering enough strength to overcome the numbers from the Arab world.
With such dismal numbers in a comparative sense, the case for the Women's Reservation Bill is a no-brainer. Any democratic regime in the world would when faced with the bouncer of the dismal representation delivery, would have hit it for a six with a Bill of this kind. Why would quotas for representation be an adequate response to the problem at hand? This website provides the rationale quite cogently. The idea is to keep representation for women at a critical level (1/3rd in the Women's Reservation Bill case) so as to ensure that "women are not only a token few in political life". As the website suggests, from detailed investigation on quota implementation across the world, "under certain conditions electoral gender quotas can lead to historical leaps in women's political representation". One of the conditions entails the presence of a wide network of grassroots women's organisations mobilising opinion and participation in the formal electoral process, something that has been built over time in India through various progressive, left and democratic organisations in the country.
So, if the bill becomes a finality - even as I write this, a momentous occasion has come to pass -
the Bill has been passed in the Rajya Sabha the Bill is now being discussed in the Rajya Sabha; India would make a qualitative leap from gender abyss into a realm of genuine political progress. No doubt about that.