In India, men make up nine out of every 10 legislators. The bleak data is arguably influenced by the still poor social status of women.

Since independence, promises that democracy would lead to greater equitable representation of men and women have been made. 

Reservation has made it possible for women to participate in local government since the 1990s. Since then, major political parties have supported a bill that would add reservations to the Lok Sabha – the lower house of the Indian Parliament – and the state legislatures.

trending now

But it never got passed.

The Women’s Reservation Bill has been passed after three decades of inaction. But the question is, when will it deliver the results?

Key components of the Women’s Reservation Bill 

The Bill calls for 33% female representation in the Lok Sabha, state assemblies, and Delhi’s National Capital Territory. The seats designated for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will likewise have similar reservations made. The bill suggests keeping the reservation in place for 15 years. After each exercise in delineation, the seats designated for women will be switched. 

How will this bill finally become law, and what is the procedure? 

Being a bill that requires a constitutional amendment, it has a long way to travel.

It must first receive a special majority vote in both chambers of parliament. The Constitution Amendment Bill must then be ratified by at least 50% of the states in accordance with Article 368’s provisions. Because it impacts their rights, their permission is required. 

How tough is it to get this bill passed? 

Majority of both Houses of Parliament, and not less than two-thirds of the members who are “present and voting” are required to pass the constitution amendment bills in order for them to become law. Given that the bill has the support of most political parties, passing the bill shouldn’t be an issue. The states and Delhi Union Terroritory are all on the same page in this regard. 

So why was this bill not passed in 30 years? 

Well, that’s a long story. Here’s some history:

By inserting articles 243D and 243T into the Constitution by the Constitution Act of 1992 (73rd Amendment) and the Constitution  Act of 1992 (74th Amendment) respectively, reservation for women in Panchayats and Municipalities – local governance bodies –  was made possible. 

The Constitution Bill, 1996 (81st Amendment), which was introduced on September 12 in the 11th Lok Sabha, was the next step in this direction. 

It aimed to reserve for women not fewer than one-third of the total number of seats filled through direct election in the Lok Sabha and in the Legislative Assemblies of the States. 

It didn’t make much headway.

On December 23, 1999, the Constitution Bill, 1999 (85th Amendment), was introduced in Lok Sabha, constituting yet another effort.  

However, that bill had also not been pursued because the political parties were unable to agree. 

The bill was again introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2008 by the Congress-led Manmohan Singh administration and was eventually approved in 2010. 

It then went to the Lok Sabha, which was dissolved ahead of elections, and thus could not be passed and expired. 

Journalist and political Commentator Neerja Chowdhury told WION, “The reason was everyone wasn’t ready for it.”

“There were a lot of political parties with a lot of resistance not due to patriarchal attitudes- but because every parliamentarian won due to women. The real fear was losing the seats – be it Etawah, Manipuri, or even the top leaders, and then if the candidate won, it would be rotational in nature like if a woman gets a seat today it would change rotationally. So, the real reason was – the fire on the shoulders of the OBC [Other Backward Class] leaders.”

“[Former prime minister] Rajiv Gandhi wanted to enact a constitutional amendment for a one-third reservation to women, but he could not do it during his term – due to a lot of resistance from the states. It seemed that Rajiv was reaching out over the heads of the state government to the panchayats and villages. Narasimha Rao passed it in 1992-93 and the country’s focus was the Babri Masjid. We had women sarpanch but the husband used to call the shots. Today, women also have become aware of their roles. At the local level today, there is a huge poll standing outside, waiting for the assemblies,” she added. 

A comparative analysis: What is the situation in India’s neighbouring countries? 


33% of women participated in the National Assembly during the adoption of the Nepalese Constitution. Additionally, it has been ensured that there are 34% of women in the Provincial Assembly and 40% at the local level.


In 2022, the proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament in Bangladesh did not change in comparison to the previous year. The proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament remained at 20.86 per cent. The proportion of seats held by women is the percentage of parliamentary seats with elected women representatives in a single or lower chamber.


The current makeup of Pakistan’s parliament is only 21 per cent female. In the National Assembly, which consists of 342 members, female representation is only around 3 per cent if reserved seats are excluded; there are 60 seats reserved for women. These numbers are emblematic of a male-dominated political culture which — along with other socio-economic factors — creates a glass ceiling for women’s political advancement.


In 2022, the proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament in China did not change in comparison to the previous year. The proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament remained at 24.94 per cent.


The most recent NC elections, held in April 2023, had candidates from all 20 of Bhutan’s dzongkhags, or districts. Only nine women registered to run for office from a total of seven districts, despite the fact that women outweigh males in the population of the nation. In addition, only five women candidates out of 84 who applied for seats made it through the Dhamngoi Zomdu, or selection process, for candidates. 

Here are five countries with the highest proportion of women in parliaments:   

  • Rwanda (63.8%)
  • Andorra (50%)
  • Cuba (48.9%)
  • Sweden (45%)
  • South Africa (44.8%)

Here are five countries with the least proportion of women in parliaments:   

  • The Republic of Yemen (0.3%)
  • Oman (1.2%)
  • Solomon Islands (2%)
  • Papua New Guinea (2.7%)
  • Comoros (3%)

What does the future hold for India? 

There are 542 members in the Lok Sabha at the moment, out of which 78 (14.39%) are women. 

The average percentage of women MLAs in assemblies across the country is only 8%, according to the government’s response to a parliamentary query late last year. 

Now, there will be an increase in female members of both the Lok Sabha and the States/UTs assembly, although the increase will be more pronounced in those bodies.

The new bill includes a clause that states: “The provision of the Constitution relating to the reservation of seats for women in the House of the People, the Legislative Assembly of a State, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi shall come into effect after an exercise of delimitation is undertaken for this purpose after the relevant figures for the first census taken after the commencement of the Constitution (128th Amendment) Act 2023 have been published.” 

That’s a tricky area. It means the population data should be available for the bill to take effect. The Census, which was scheduled to be finished in 2021, got delayed due to Covid pandemic. 

In addition, the government has already said that, by current law, the subsequent delimitation exercise may be carried out following the first census to be held after the year 2026. 

So in theory at least, implementation of the bill cannot happen before 2029, taking all these factors into consideration. 

Expert Neerja Chowdhury said, “Sonia gave it a push in 2010 but she didn’t give a push in the lok sabha. The BJP promised to bring it in their manifesto in 2014.  It’s a big day for the women of the country but the criticism is why delimitation? The bill gets passed but doesn’t get enforced till delimitation is undertaken. It is just the declaration of intent in 2024. The reality happens only in 2029.” 

Women’s political empowerment is seen as an essential tool for eradicating prejudice and gender inequity. But in India, it will take a few more years, and a lot of political will and consensus, for it to happen.

recommended stories

recommended stories


You can now write for and be a part of the community. Share your stories and opinions with us here.


Read More