Equality, through 33 per cent

Alliance of women’s groups rallies to demand the passage of the women’s reservation bill in Parliament
Hardnews Bureau Delhi

An alliance of more than 35 women organizations, called 33% Now, has come out demanding the passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill in the last working session of the Parliament. Addressing the press conference at Indian Women Press Corps on February 6, the women groups said they were not ready to accept another setback on the historic bill.

“Women, comprising nearly 50 per cent of India’s population, continue to be under-represented in all aspects of politics, including as elected representatives in the Parliament and Legislative Councils. The marginalization of women from politics is clear, as today only 10.9 per cent of the parliamentary seats are held by women,” they said. “Women make up less than one per cent of ministers and four percent of the negotiators in major development processes.”

While expressing concern regarding the uncertainties in the bill, which has been in the making since 1996, the group added the bill would not see the light of day if it wasn’t passed in the last session of the current Parliament.

33% Now is an alliance of institutions working in the field of women’s rights and social action. The goal of the alliance, which has been around since 2010, is to get the Women’s Reservation Bill passed in the Lok Sabha.

Over the next two weeks, the organization plans to lobby with various political leaders, involve the youth through online campaigns and hold a dharna on February 12 at Jantar Mantar. The demand for action came from activists like Jagmati Sangwan of All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA); Shabnam Hashmi of Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD); Ranjana Kumari, Director of Centre for Social Research; Annie Raja, General Secretary, National Federation of Indian Women; Shobha Ozha of All India Women Congress, and Rekha Mody, a social worker.

“All political parties need to come together and pass the bill,” they said, adding “The members of the Lok Sabha need to follow the lead of Rajya Sabha, where the bill was passed in 2010.”

The organizations called on political parties to take responsibility to ensure that women’s rights, as outlined in the Constitution of India, are upheld. The demand for women’s reservation bill is also being rallied through a strong online and mobile phone campaign, to connect the youth, particularly women. A number of partners have been brought together for the online advocacy engagement. There is a petition underway on Change.org for people to express solidarity for the demand. The online aspect of the campaign, generating a debate on the bill as an instrument of women representation and voice at the national level is called #ready2lead and builds on the existing #33percentNow.