India vows womens Bill passage

NEW DELHI: India’s government today said it was determined to pass a landmark bill guaranteeing women one-third of seats in parliament to boost female participation in the world’s largest democracy.

“Our government is committed to social and economic empowerment of women. We are moving towards one third-reservation for women in parliament and state legislatures,” Premier Manmohan Singh told a women’s leadership summit.

His statement in New Delhi came ahead of the planned tabling in parliament on Monday — International Women’s Day — of the Women’s Reservation Bill, one of the most contentious bills to be put before India’s lawmakers.

The proposal to reserve 33 percent of seats in parliament has been in the works for more than a decade but has met with strong opposition from various political groups. It would radically increase women’s membership in India’s decision-making lower house where they occupy 59 slots out of 545. There are just 21 women in the 250-seat upper house.

The bill has been held up by opposition from lawmakers who have demanded that a portion of the quota be set aside for minorities and backward classes.