From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Women's representation
Asymmetric representation in India and Kenya has given rise to complex debate in both countries. The article analyses the similarities and difference.
Issue of women’s representation in Parliament
- Many political promises have been made in seven decades of the working of the Indian Constitution regarding 33 per cent reservation in Parliament.
- But the two bills, introduced in 1996 and 2010, have been allowed to lapse.
What are the hurdles?
- Every political party endorses the idea but the battle within political classes has been over “quota within a quota”.
- Some have argued that ways should be found to ensure that this reservation should contain 33 per cent reservation within for SC and ST women.
- Some have championed a systemic practice of reservation at the stage of distributing party tickets.
- Some continue to fight for underprivileged and rural women.
- Some maintain that a constitutional convention mandating increased representation for women by parties will be more appropriate than a constitutional amendment.
Comparison with Kenya
- While both fall short in equitable representation, Kenya has secured about 22 per cent women in the present National Assembly.
- India peaked to its highest number in the 2019 elections with 62 women (around 14.58 per cent),out of a total of 542 Lok Sabha seats.
- In the Kenyan Senate women number only 21 (or 31 per cent) of the 67-member House are female; in the Indian Rajya Sabha women comprise 25 out of 243 elected members.
- In both societies, women’s representation has always been “pyramidical”, most women remain below the constitutional radar at the bottom, even when a few scale national heights.
- Asymmetric representation in both societies has generated a long and complex debate concerning women’s representation.
Difference in constitutional histories and judicial actions
- India has nothing like the two-thirds rule in Kenya’s new constitution.
- Kenya’s Constitution requires that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender.
- But the 2010 constitutional norm of a “two-thirds gender rule”, buttressed by the requirement that the electoral system shall comply with this rule has been breached.
- The judicial orders (from 2012) giving various timeframes to enact legislation to implement gender parity have found Parliament unresponsive.
- The stage was thus set for the exercise of constitutional power and function by the chief justice to advise the president to dissolve Parliament.
- This was a great victory for the Kenyan women.
Indian sisterhood can yearn wistfully, but valiantly, for another Vishakha moment in the demosprudential leadership of the nation by the apex court.