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Last Updated:[10-03-2010 01:48:04 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

India Womens Bill Tied to Population Control and Economic Growth

tradenews In economic parlance, any entity’s development and growth is judged by its economic capabilities of maximizing returns and minimizing expenditure. Likewise, the proposed Women's Reservation Bill of India is designed to maintain the momentum of the country’s growth through a policy change which eventually reduces population growth, a retrograde to the economy.

Women's Bill recommends 33.3 percent or one-third of seats in the decision making bodies starting from the Lok Sabha, down to state and local legislatures. The sympathizers of the bill claim that such legislation will increase women’s participation in political affairs of the country by diluting gender inequality in the social system.

Though the draft has passed the first hurdle by getting a nod from the Rajyasabha, upper parliamentary house, underscores women emancipation and empowerment, it is believed to have constructed to serve a larger need of the country, i.e. population control. India’s policy makers envisages such a need as all inclusive growth in the past two decades have facilitated increased life expectancy and reduced infant mortality spiking population growth. They also perceive even 10 percent plus GDP growth would not suffice if the population growth is left untamed.

Nonetheless, there are many misgivings about as to how the bill would address the issues of women such as access to education, healthcare and even food, and above all the decision making rights including child-bearing. It should be noted that the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh stated before the bill was put to vote in the upper house “What we are going to enact today is a small token of homage to the sacrifices our women have made in nation building, in the freedom struggle, in all other nation building activities.”

Incidentally, the government seemed to be hoping the benefits of the bill to trickle in over a period of time than in immediate future. The exercise of effecting a policy change is an effort to expedite women empowerment through a governmental process rather than awaiting a social change as many countries with higher women parliamentary participation have experienced. Rwanda ranks first among the list of countries with female representation in the decision making body followed by Nordic states including Sweden and Finland.

The bill has to undergo two more phases for its approval, one at the lower house of the parliament and other at the state assemblies. Reservation within the new bill for minorities and lower castes as demanded by the opposing parties will be discussed once again in the coming sessions.

Prior to the approval, it is hoped, rather than reserving fixed constituencies for women, a rotating system covering all constituencies should be included in the bill for the outreach of all sections of the country. The new legislation to bear the desired results needs to include well chalked out responsibilities to the female representatives for the upliftment of the women of each constituency they represent. Unless these key elements are not looked upon, the fourteen-year old proposal may not be able to fulfil its very goal.

By Jose Roy

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