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India lawmakers weigh bill to reserve parliamentary seats for women

[JURIST] Indian lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill to ensure that one-third of seats in parliament are reserved for women, marking International Women's Day [official website]. The Women's Reservations Bill [2008 text, PDF], introduced in the Rajya Sabha [official website], or Council of States, would increase the number of women [Times report] serving in the 543-seat legislature, which currently has no gender quota, from 59 to at least 181. The bill is supported by the ruling Congress Party [party website] and also has support [press release] in the Bharatiya Janata Party [party website] and the Communist parties. The bill would require a constitutional amendment, meaning it must be passed by at least a two-thirds majority. Voting was postponed [Calcutta Telegraph report] until Tuesday after opposition MP's tore up the bill in protest.

The controversial legislation was originally proposed in 1996, but has been repeatedly blocked. Last year, India elected its first woman president and first woman speaker of parliament. India currently reserves one-third of seats on local governing bodies for women, and, last year, increased the quota to 50 percent.

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