India upper house approves quota for women lawmakers

India upper house approves quota for women lawmakers

[JURIST] India's upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha [official website], on Tuesday approved a bill to ensure that one-third of seats in parliament are reserved for women. The Women's Reservation Bill [2008 text, PDF], introduced [JURIST report] Monday, would increase the number of women serving in the 543-seat legislature, which currently has no gender quota, from 59 to at least 181. The bill was passed by a vote of 191-1 [Hindu report] after seven lawmakers were suspended for causing a disturbance Monday by tearing up the bill and throwing it at the chairman. The bill, which requires a constitutional amendment, will now go before the Lok Sabha [official website], the lower house of parliament, where it is expected to pass. It must then be approved by at least half the states.

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.