The Parliament’s winter session is round the corner and yet again, activists are hoping that the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill will be tabled in the Lok Sabha this time. Hopes are up particularly in view of the Odisha assembly recently passing a resolution for 33 per cent reservation for women.

For decades, women’s groups are raising their concern over the lack of women in politics and the low number of women candidates, and yet political parties only show absolute apathy towards this issue. Even after four-and-a-half years of its ruling party tenure, the BJP has failed to table the  in the Lok Sabha—a promise they made in their party manifesto while campaigning.

At a recent press conference held by Centre for Social Research, several women’s groups across the country reached the capital to show their resentment towards the government’s approach to women’s quota and to demand that the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill be passed in the winter session of Parliament.

“Our political leaders have a patriarchal mindset when it comes to addressing women’s issues in the country. Even though India records very high cases of violence against women and faces marginalization of women in every sphere of society, they ignore their concern and hardly make any effort to address it at the level of decision-making. We urge them to pass the bill and send a clear message to the women of India that they care,” said Dr Ranjana Kumari of The National Alliance for Women’s Reservation Bill.

ALSO READ: Why We Must Have The Women’s Reservation Bill Passed

Delhi Mahila Congress president, Sharmishtha Mukherjee, who also attended the press conference, explained why parties don’t reserve 33% seats within the party. She said, “We don’t just want women to contest elections but win them too and send them in the parliament or the state legislative assembly. Until the government reserves seats through constitutional amendment, even if the party in itself reserves seats for women, it does not matter.”

Mukherjee also said that parties need to work on the voters and build a vote bank out of women voters who then vote for women candidates in the party. “So that when women voters vote, they take note of gender in that political party’s manifesto, history and ideology.” She also promised that if the Congress wins the upcoming General Election with a majority, then within two months, it will get the Women’s Reservation Bill cleared in the Lok Sabha.

Other than political representatives, several women’s groups representatives who mobilize young girls and women in their respective areas across the country criticised the disinterest of political parties in bringing gender equality in Parliament. One of the representatives from Karnataka, Brinda Adige, who works with Global Concerns India, said, “We want to address the issue of facilities so that women feel confident and be comfortable, particularly if they are elected in a constituency. We should not be asked to battle with the ergonomics of men in whichever position of power women contest and come to power.”

“Our political leaders have a patriarchal mindset when it comes to addressing women’s issues in the country. Even though India records very high cases of violence against women and faces marginalization of women in every sphere of society, they ignore their concern and hardly make any effort to address it at the level of decision-making”

Recently, the Odisha Assembly passed the resolution seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in legislative assemblies and Parliament. The ruling BJD in the state, along with both the BJP and Congress, supported the resolution. Women’s groups have hailed it as a positive development, and hope that the BJP government at the Centre follows suit. Experts feel that the present BJP government has the required number of parliamentarians to pass the bill. In addition, the Congress party has supported the bill.

Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Gowda, politician Sharmishtha Mukherjee, Director & Secretary, Joint Women’s Programme, Dr Jyotsna Chatterjee and Asha Devi of Nirbhaya Jyoti Trust were also present at the press conference.

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