In Rajya Sabha, women members harp on women’s quota

New Delhi, March 8 (IANS) Cutting across party lines, women members in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday stressed the need to get passed the bill providing for 33 percent reservation to women in legislature.

“I am very happy that the Rajya Sabha passed the legislation. I hope the bill will be passed this year perhaps in the Lok Sabha,” senior parliamentarian and Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptullah said in the upper house.

Women MPs were given an opportunity to speak for three minutes each on Tuesday on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.

“I agree that all women members should speak, as the prime minister said in the Lok Sabha… time has come for men also to speak of women empowerment,” she said.

Heptullah said she was happy that more women members were being elected to parliament.

Congress parliamentarian Renuka Choudhary, a former union women and child development minister, made a strong pitch for equal treatment to women.

She also paid tributes to women like Rohith Vemula’s mother, Neelam Katara and Nirbhaya’s mother.

“After 16 Lok Sabhas, we have just 12 percent women,” Choudhary lamented.

She also called for a change in perception vis-a-vis women: “We come here because the constitution gives us the right, not for anyone’s entertainment. We are not the perks of your job.”

Congress member Rajni Patil urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to get the women’s reservation bill passed.

“We urge the government, specially the prime minister, that if you have the will, fulfil the promise you made to the women for 33 percent reservation. Get it passed, you have the power in the Lok Sabha,” she said.

Sasikala Puspa of the AIADMK also asked if the dismal 12 percent women members in parliament was any justice to them.

“Most effective solution for women empowerment is not only economic growth but their participation in decision-making. Parliament has only 12 percent women. Is this gender equality? Is this social equality?” she posed.

Senior Congress member Ambika Soni said she was disappointed that women members were given only three minutes each to speak.

“I gave a zero hour notice with the hope that we can have a debate…. we were told all women will be given three minutes. I came with great hope but speak with disappointment,” she said.

Kumari Selja of the Congress questioned Modi’s silence on the women’s reservation bill.

“Maybe, this is just a tokenism, we are not discussing it. We had hope the prime minister will talk about reservation,” she said.

Earlier, Rajya Sabha Chaiman M. Hamid Ansari, in his address to the upper house, said it is a “bitter truth” that the programmes for women empowerment have not worked.

“It is a bitter truth that various programmes, measures and vision documents by governmental and non-governmental agencies have fallen short of achieving the objective of women’s development,” Ansari said.

A constitutional amendment bill to provide one-third reservation to women in state assemblies and parliament was passed by the Rajya Sabha in March 2010 amid protests by some regional parties but collective support of the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party and Left parties.

The fate of the bill remains uncertain as experts opine that the bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha and sent to the lower house, lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.

Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the Lok Sabha also sought an early passage of the “long-awaited” bill that seeks to reserve a third of legislative seats in India for women.

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