WOMEN MPs made a statement in various ways in Parliament on International Women’s Day, with Ranjit Ranjan riding in on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, Kumari Selja stressing equality as human beings rather than idolatry as goddesses, and many pushing for passage of the Women’s Representation Bill.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed all women MPs to speak, during both question and zero hours, while the Rajya Sabha too gave its women MPs the first right to speak during zero hour.
In the Lok Sabha, Congress president Sonia Gandhi initiated a special debate and played on the government’s catchphrase “minimum government, maximum governance”. “Surely, maximum governance does not mean to have double standards in dealing with women’s rights,” she said.
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She criticised a new law in BJP-ruled Rajasthan and Haryana that makes educational qualification mandatory for contesting local polls. “For no fault of theirs, a very large number of rural women, belonging to the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, are being denied their basic constitutional right. This compels our urgent legislative attention,” she said.
She concluded by reminding the government that “maximum governance also means giving women our legitimate due, namely the much-awaited” bill. “I believe we can expect in you, Madam Speaker, a strong ally for this cause,” she told Sumitra Mahajan.
Responding to the debate, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the government is working towards evolving a consensus and expressed the hope it would succeed. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 but remains stuck in the Lok Sabha. It entitles women to 33 per cent reservation in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies; the current representation in the Lok Sabha is 66 out of 543 — or 12 per cent.
In the Rajya Sabha, it was minister Najma Heptullah who set the tone, expressing hope the bill would be passed this year. Kumari Selja (Congress) said, “Women should be first given respect as human beings… Sometimes it is said they are Durga, sometimes they are called Lakshmi, sometimes something else. Don’t make women God, let them live as women and treat them as human beings.”