‘Women’s Reservation Is An Evolving Process’

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Despite doubts about its practical problems, Congress leader Manish Tiwari tells Shobhita Naithani that women’s quota is affirmative action

Photo: Vijay Pandey

How will the Women’s Reservation Bill help in women’s empowerment?
Political empowerment is the starting point of all other forms of empowerment. Bringing 33 per cent of women into Parliament and legislature would add to the aspirational ethos among women and that would help in broadbasing and strengthening a democracy.

Why don’t parties look at internal reservations when it comes to distribution of tickets?
When you have 50 per cent reservation already being passed and implemented in local bodies, the need for internal reservation has been completely obviated by providing a constitutional basis.

Why don’t parties field more women candidates?
There is an imminent case for fielding more women candidates but in 62 years it hasn’t really happened. That’s why the percentage of women in Parliament has been so low.

Is it to do with the mindset of politicians?
It has to do with a societal mindset. I don’t think anyone wants to relinquish power very easily.

Won’t the Women’s Reservation Bill benefit only the influential? How will the government ensure that OBC women get equal representation in Parliament?
That’s a completely baseless argument. Once you reserve seats, where is the bar to stop anyone from the SC, ST and OBC community from coming in?

Will women have the same acceptability as men?
What’s more important is whether they will have acceptability among people. Once you are elected, you are on the same footing on the issue of acceptability.

There are also problems with the “rotation of seats”. How does an MP get to nurture her constituency or voters re-elect deserving candidates if seats are rotated every 15 years?
Well seats are rotated even for delimitation of seats [for general candidates]; and delimitation is technically supposed to take place every 10 years.

‘Women are far more grounded because most of the time they are charged with running the house’

Won’t rotation lead to ineffective political participation because women will be moving seats?
It will lead to a grounded discourse. You will have more concerns for basic issues — education, health, female foeticide, infant nutrition — which shape society. There are a range of issues that are not being filtered into the political discourse yet.

Why is that? Because there are fewer women in politics?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Women are far more grounded because most of the time they are charged with running the household.

Is this mere tokenism?
If giving 33 per cent reservation through affirmative action is tokenism, then I do not know what substance is.

The example of women’s reservation in panchayats shows that most women are puppets while their husbands run the show.
Reservation does not mean empowerment automatically. It is an evolving process. Once you set the ball rolling it takes time for it to gather momentum and really flower.

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