The upper house of India’s partliament has passed a bill that would reserve a third of the seats in National and State legislatures for women. It has serious hurdles to get over, but at least efforts on behalf of women in politics may have taken a large step forward.
The amendment is a long-sought tool to improve the lot of women in India, the world’s most populous democracy. Despite having had several formidable female leaders — including former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her daughter-in-law Sonia Gandhi, the current leader of the Congress Party — Indian women lag behind men in virtually every sphere of life.
There is a concern being expressed:
Opponents of the bill say that it will favor wealthy upper-caste women at the expense of the lower castes and Muslims.
“We are not against women reservation,” said Lalu Prasad Yadav, leader of one of the parties seeking to block the amendment. “Give reservation to poor India, to original India. Ninety percent of the population is deprived in India.”
Critics of the amendment say that it will only worsen what is already a big problem — powerful men substituting their daughters, wives and sisters as proxies in political office.
I cannot speak directly to the last worry, and many feminists will recognize the worry of women being used as proxies as possibly stemming from a familiar inability to see women as agents. As the notion of kyriarchy can make us aware, providing power to all the members of a class can be much more complicated that it may appear at first..