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Women's groups to hold protest march on Friday

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Nov 22: Angered by yet another failure of the Government to introduce the long-pending Women's Reservation Bill in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament, women's groups and their supporters will hold a protest march here on Friday.

The activist will also launch a campaign asking women not to vote for parties which are opposing the Bill, seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures.

''Women of the country, which form 50 per cent of the population, have again been let down by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the UPA Government. We are shocked and disappointed that despite repeated assurances the bill has not even been tabled,'' said All India Women's Conference president Dr Manorama Bawa.

The Women's Reservation Bill was earlier introduced in 1996 in the Lok Sabha but lapsed as it failed to find time for discussion -- facing stiff opposition from various quarters, it was referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee where no consensual outcome was achieved.

Ms Bawa said the struggle for the cause will continue and it will be a ''fight to the finish''.

''We are not going to be silent spectators.... Either the Government tells us that the Bill will not be tabled or they proceed with the parliamentary formalities. It should not betray the people who have elected it,'' she added.

The UPA Government's contention that a consensus is not arrived at is just a ''gimmick'', she said .

''How is it that a consensus is arrived at on all other issues and bills and not the reservation Bill. It is just an excuse.

Governments after Governments and five Prime Ministers have promised us the tabling and passage of the bill but nothing happens,'' she added.

Coming down heavily on the UPA coalition, Centre for Social Research Director Ranjana Kumari said the alliance partners lacked ''political will'' to table and pass the Bill. ''The UPA has let us down once again. No less than the Prime Minister had assured us that the bill will be tabled....The failure of the Government has shown that all political parties are denying women their basic rights,'' she added.

''This has exposed the irresponsible attitude of the Government.... Why should women vote when they are not given the chance to participate in policy making decisions,'' she added.

''Anti-women's bill parties and faces like RJD's Lalu Prasad and Samajwadi party's Mulayam Singh Yadav should not be allowed to win elections,'' she explained.

Dr Kumari said women have been emphasising over years that gender balance in politics is about women's full equal and active participation.

''It is about getting critical mass or at least 33 per cent of women in position of power and decision making so that they can change the nature of politics to genuinely respond to society's problems,'' she added.

Pointing out that African countries like Rwanda and Mozambique had provided reservation, she said India had been left far behind in the area.

''When nations like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal can ensure the participation of women in policy making then why is India, the world's democracy, not ensuring this basic right for women,'' she said.

She said if women were given the opportunity of representation in Parliament and legislatures it will eliminate criminal elements from Indian politics.

Representatives of the women's organisations said they had met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi several times but even that had not yield any results.

Activists from the All India Women's Conference, Baha'l Office for the Advancement of Women, Centre for Social Research, Hindi Mazdoor Sabha, Mahila Bakshata Samiti, Women Power Connect Swasthya and students from Delhi University, JNU and Jamia Millia Islamia will join the march.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi yesterday said the Women's Reservation Bill had failed to find place on the agenda as ''no consensus over it could be reached'' among the various political parties.

Discussions were, however, still on and ''as and when a broad consensus is reached the Government will think of introducing it'', the Minister said.

UNI

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No consensus yet on Women Bill: Dasmunsi

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