UN report makes case for women’s reservation in elected bodies

The report was released in India today by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman here.

Making a case for quota for women in elected bodies like Parliament, a UN report today said that reservation in Panchayati Raj Institutions has helped reduce gender discrimination. More than 110 countries have some type of quota for women in parliaments and 11 have quotas to increase the gender balance of government agencies, said a UN report on ‘Leave no one behind: A call to action for gender equality and women’s economic empowerment’. The report was released in India today by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman here.

It said through the Panchayati Raj Act, India increased the share of women in local government from 5 per cent in 1993 to 40 per cent in 2005, exceeding the mandated quota of 33 per cent. The report’s pitch for the women quota assumes significance as the issue of women reservation in Parliament has been pending for long.

Speaking at the function, Sitharaman said the government has taken host of initiatives like ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Mudra and Stand-Up India for the empowerment of women. However, she said the challenge is to make these sustainable. “For every initiative taken by this government or the earlier government, particularly on issues of empowering women, sustainability is the biggest challenge. Whether you are talking about health related indicators or retaining girl children in school.”

When the momentum is built, the programme moves fast but gradually and quietly it drops, she added. Sitharaman further said that security is the pre-requisite for economic empowerment. Citing the Nirbhaya case, she said there is a need for tough laws in terms of conviction. The report too stated that legal barriers to women’s entrepreneurship are pervasive, especially for married women.

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“Legal constraints on women’s mobility can also stunt their ability to start and run businesses,” it said. Meanwhile, a UN statement said that the recommendations of the report are consistent with and can strengthen the efforts of the Indian government, businesses and civil society to ensure sustainable job creation.

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