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women's reservation billWomen’s rights groups Friday demanded passage of the women’s reservation bill in the winter session of parliament, saying full and equal political participation of women was critical to the achievement of gender equality.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government must fulfill its obligation to pass the bill in the winter session, said “Time for 33 Percent Coalition”, an alliance of leading institutions working in the field of women’s rights and social action.

The Women’s Reservation Bill seeks to provide 33 percent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.

“The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, demonstrating its acceptance among political parties and members of parliament. However, it is still awaiting approval in the Lok Sabha. Only after the Bill is passed will women be able to take an active and equal role in our governance bodies,” the group said in a release.

It said activists were meeting political leaders and asking them to demonstrate their commitment to women’s rights and gender equality by passing the bill.

“After 65 years of freedom and democracy, Indian women still fail to enjoy full and equal citizenship and make up only 11 percent of elected representatives across the country. This remains a major challenge to our realisation of true democratic governance,” the release said.

On the forthcoming assembly polls in five states, the release said political parties have not given tickets to women in any sizeable numbers, citing “lower winnability”.

“It is clear that political parties will only allocate tickets to women once the bill is passed.

“Women have a fundamental right to participate in politics, to contest elections and to take up leadership positions in local, state or national governments. Gender equality cannot be achieved until women have the opportunity to participate equally in all spheres of society,” the release said.

It said women’s political empowerment leads to positive health, education and infrastructure outcomes and strengthens democracy by ensuring that governance reflects community needs.

“With the 2014 general election in sight and the possibility of a new government with new priorities, it is critical that the Bill is passed in the winter session of parliament,” the release said.

It said that men’s dominance of politics should be made a thing of the past.

“It is time to move beyond traditional and patriarchal social, cultural and political structures. It is time to build a new inclusive and gender sensitive India. We cannot do this while women are excluded from decision-making bodies,” it said.


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