Women quota bill triggers uproar in Indian parliament

NEW DELHI: An attempt by India’s government to pass legislation reserving a third of all seats for women in parliament provoked an uproar today as opposition politicians forced repeated adjournments.

The government had been confident that the Women Reservation Bill, which has been stalled for 14 years, would gather the required votes to pass in the upper house today after being presented on International Women’s Day.

The upper house was adjourned twice today as politicians opposing the bill shouted down speakers and refused to allow the introduction of the proposed legislation and a scheduled debate.

The ruling Congress party, its allies and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party have pledged their support in public, but several socialist parties oppose it.

They argue that the law, which would reserve a third of seats for women in the parliament and state assemblies, would lead to a monopoly by upper-caste women at the expense of lower caste and religious minority Muslims. “We are not anti-women but we want reservations for women hailing from minority and backward classes first,” Mulayam Singh Yadav, a leader of the pro-Muslim Samajwadi Party said outside parliament.

Attempts to pass the bill have been blocked by several political groups in the past who have demanded separate quotas for women from Muslim and low-caste communities. Yadav said the bill was an attempt by the Congress and the BJP to appease the rich and the influential upper class.