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Fewer men in politics? What 33% Women’s Reservation Bill could mean for J&K

By: Farhana Sheikh (Ziraat Times)

Srinagar, Sept 20: As the Lok Sabha passed the Women’s Reservation Bill on Wednesday with an overwhelming majority, decks are cleared for a far larger participation and representation of women in the country’s political system.

Once implemented, the Bill will pave the way for 33% reservation of Parliamentary and Legislative Assembly seats across the country.

With the Bill applicable to Jammu & Kashmir as well, when implemented, one-third of the seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly will be reserved for women. Analysts anticipate that one or more than one seat for the Lok Sabha will be reserved from J&K as well.

Speeches made in the Parliament by key government representatives suggested that the Women’s Reservation of 33% may be implemented after the completion of the new census and delimitation of the Lok Sabha parliamentary constituencies.

Opposition parties have called upon the government to implement the women’s reservation without delay and not to wait for the census and delimitation results.

Meanwhile, in J&K, there is a debate going on regarding the procedure and criteria of reserving constituencies for women and the future of many male politicians.

“This will have a significant impact on many men politicians’ careers, the overall architecture of reservation in the Assembly, and political representation”, said Javed Qadri, a social activist.

 

The Women’s Reservation Bill will likely reduce the number of seats available to men in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. While it is unclear as of now which constituencies will in reserved for women in J&K, the end result would be exclusion or withdrawal of many male politicians from the political landscape of J&K, analysts believe.

 

“This could have an impact on the careers of many male politicians, especially those who are new to politics or who come from marginalized communities”, observes Sat Pal Sharma from Kathua.

However, those who vehemently support this reservation think otherwise.

“it is important to note that the Women’s Reservation Bill is not intended to discriminate against men. Rather, it is intended to increase the representation of women in politics and to address the gender gap in political representation”, said Faiza Amin, a young lawyer based in Srinagar.

There is a view that while the reservation is likely to exclude several political stalwarts from political representation from their traditional constituencies, some of those political heavy weights could field women from their families and extended families in the next elections from their traditionally-held constituencies.

Political parties of J&K are also likely to start grooming several aspiring women politicians from their parties to leverage the new reality.

Political analysts also see the possibility of a good number of middle aged political workers, who were expecting to fight the next elections from their family-base Constituencies, to leave politics altogether.

“This middle aged and even younger lot of male  poltical workers  might simply leave politics of they see this reservation leaving no scope for them to compete in political from those constituencies”, said Syed Iftikhar, a political activist.

Overall impact on the  architecture of reservation in J&K Assembly

The Women’s Reservation Bill will also alter the overall architecture of reservation in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Currently, there are reserved seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Assembly. The Women’s Reservation Bill will add a third category of reserved seats for women.

Impact on political representation

Currently, there are 90 seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly. Of these, 7 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs), 4 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes (STs), and 1 seat is reserved for the Kashmiri Pandit migrant community.

 

The Women’s Reservation Bill proposes to reserve 33% of the seats in the Legislative Assembly for women. This would mean that 30 seats would be reserved for women.

With the Women’s Reservation Bill being  passed on Wednesday,  the total number of seats reserved for women, SCs, STs, and other reserved classes would be 37. This would be 41% of the total number of seats in the Legislative Assembly.

The Women’s Reservation Bill would not reduce the number of seats reserved for SCs, STs, and other reserved classes. Rather, it would add an additional category of reserved seats for women.

The Women’s Reservation Bill will have a positive impact on political representation in Jammu and Kashmir. By increasing the number of women in the Legislative Assembly, the Bill will help to ensure that the voices and perspectives of women are better represented in the decision-making process, said Anju Kumari, another young lawyer practising in Jammu.

This could lead to better policies and programs for women and girls. It could also help to break down gender stereotypes and promote gender equality in society, she added.

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