Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday expressed confidence that attempts to find support for reserving 33%seats in Parliament and state legislatures for women would be a success. He was addressing a national conference in New Delhi on 'Women's Role in Nation Building - from Panchayat to Parliament'.
His remarks came a day after some major constituents of the United Progressive Alliance opposed the measure in its present form demanding quotas for women among Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes in the new legislation.
Observing that the experience with such reservation at the panchayat level has been very encouraging, even if not uniformly successful across the country, he said a new army of empowered women has come forward to participate in governance at the community level. "The time has come for us to scale this experiment up to the national level," Dr Singh said.
The prime minister said a million women were being elected to the Panchayats in the country every five years. "This large scale mobilisation of women in the public life of our country is an unprecedented event. It is the most important political intervention aimed at the empowerment of women anywhere in the world".
Lauding the role played by late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in launching this great journey of women's empowerment, he said "the time has now come for us to move ahead on this path".
The Common Minimum Programme of the UPA Government recognised the political, legal, educational and economic empowerment of women, he added that the government considered the empowerment of women as one of the key principles of governance. "No nation can stand proud if it discriminates against any of its citizens. Certainly no society can claim to be part of the modern civilised world unless it treats its women on par with men.
The time for genuine and full empowerment of women is here and now. This is an idea whose time has come, but whose realisation we must now ensure," Dr Singh asserted.
Singh said the gender responsive legislation and gender responsive budgeting that the government had initiated would go a long way in making governments and governance more gender sensitive.
"We are pursuing legislation that will provide flexibility in working hours to women and encourage women's employment in the industrial and services sector", he said adding a bill on protection of women from domestic violence has been passed and changes had been effected in the Criminal Procedure Code and the Hindu Succession Act to empower women. Speaking at the conference, organised by Central Social Welfare Board, Human Resource Development Minister Arjun Singh said that the time has come for the implementation of and not for talking about women's empowerment.
He said that it was unfortunate that some people consider empowering women would pose a challenge to them. History was replete with sacrifies made by women in the country's freedom struggle. Chairman of CSWB Rajani Patil said that a Task Force would be set up to monitor functioning of the non-governmental organisations which were doing a yeoman's service in this field.