India government introduces legislation to reserve 33 percent of Lok Sabha seats for women

The Indian government introduced legislation on Tuesday that would allocate a third of of the seats in the lower house of Parliament and state legislative assemblies to women. Minister of Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal introduced the The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, also known as the Women’s Reservation Bill, in India’s lower house of Parliament, the Lok Sabha, following a nearly three decade-long effort to pass similar legislation.

The Women’s Reservation Bill would reserve 33 percent of seats in the Lok Sabha, the state legislatures, and the Delhi legislative assembly for women. The bill also includes sub-reservations for Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Anglo-Indians. The bill is a constitutional amendment bill which aims to mandate women’s reservation in the Parliament, State Legislatures and Deli Legislative Assembly by amending Articles 330 A, 332 A and 239 A of the Indian Constitution.

Following a delimitation process for Parliamentary constituencies, the reservation will go into effect and last for 15 years, after which it will become ineffective. The bill allows for the rotation of reserved seats for women in the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies and the Delhi Assembly after each subsequent delimitation exercise, as determined by the Parliament. The objective of the bill is to increase women’s representation in Parliament, as well as state legislatures, to increase women’s participation as public representatives in policy making.

While presenting the bill in the Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as a “historic occasion” and said “We have had a lot of discussion over women’s reservation bill for several years. But finally, yesterday in a cabinet meeting, our government approved the bill that will be introduced today.”

The introduction of this bill comes as an attempt to revive a bill pending for 27 years for want of consensus among parties. Since 1996, there have been numerous attempts to introduce a women’s reservation bill in both the Lok Sabha and state legislatures. The last similar attempt was undertaken in 2010, when a bill for women’s reservation was passed by the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House but failed to pass in the Lok Sabha.