News / Asia

India's Upper House Passes Bill to Reserve Parliament Seats for Women

Anjana Pasricha

India's upper house of parliament has passed a landmark bill to reserve one third of seats in parliament and state legislatures for women.  The bill was passed following unruly protests by several lawmakers who oppose the controversial legislation.  The bill will have to be passed by the lower house of parliament and state assemblies before it becomes law.  

The chairman of the Upper House of Parliament, Hamid Ansari, announced the passage of the Women's Reservation bill with 186 out of 248 lawmakers voting in favor of it.

Lawmakers from the ruling alliance and opposition benches called it "history in the making." 

The first significant step in passing the legislation has taken 14 years.  The bill was first introduced in 1996, but it was never voted on due to political opposition from several quarters.  

But this time it has been supported by all major political parties, including the main opposition Bharatiya Janata and Communist parties.   

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called it a "momentous development" in the long journey of empowering Indian women.

"Our women have faced enormous difficulties even when we talk in terms of the benefits of processes of economic and social development," he said.  "Our women face discrimination at home, there is domestic violence, they face discrimination and unequal access to education and healthcare.  All these things have to end if India is to realize the full potential."

But passage of the bill still has not been smooth, with two small socialist parties - the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal - disrupting parliament repeatedly to block the bill since it was introduced Monday.      

Seven lawmakers from these parties were suspended, but refused to leave the chamber.  They were finally taken out by marshals after they continued to shout slogans to drown debate.  These parties want the bill to include quotas for lower-caste women and Muslims.

A leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Arun Jaitley called the chaos witnessed in parliament "another kind of history."    

"We have seen some of the most shameful incidents of India's parliamentary democracy," said Jaitley.  

The bill will now have to be passed by the lower house of parliament and by state assemblies before it becomes law.  At the moment, women occupy roughly 10 percent of seats in parliament.

The Congress Party's decision to press ahead with the legislation carries political risks because the two socialist parties who oppose the legislation have threatened to withdraw support from the government.  This could reduce the comfortable majority the ruling alliance has in parliament.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More