The women reservation bill passed Tuesday night in India's upper house of parliament, setting the stage for women to hold one-third of all legislative seats.
The women reservation bill passed today in India’s upper house of parliament, as politicians overwhelmingly voted to amend the Constitution to reserve one-third of all seats in national and state legislatures for women.
Female lawmakers and activists shouted “we have made it” outside parliament soon after it passed Tuesday night in New Delhi.
While proponents say the bill will increase women’s participation in politics and contribute to one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, critics say it favors wealthy women and encourages powerful men to substitute daughters and wives as political proxies.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the 186 to 1 vote was a “historic step forward toward emancipation of Indian womanhood.”
The vote came a day after International Women’s Day, which saw more than 70 demonstrations globally to protest for women’s empowerment in jobs and government.
The bill was proposed more than a decade ago, but has faced strong opposition from male-dominated political parties worried about losing seats.
It now goes to the lower house, where it is likely to pass, according to the Associated Press.
Critics have called the women reservation bill “anti-Muslim” and “anti-Dalit” because the few Muslim or Dalit (low-caste) men who are in parliament could be bumped by women. Those women are likely to be non-Muslims or of a higher caste, meaning that Muslim or Dalit representation could disappear entirely.