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Tuesday, July 14, 1998 Published at 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK

World: South Asia

Indian parliament refuses women quotas

The bill triggered uproar in the Indian parliament

The BBC's Daniel Lak: "Protesting MPs shouted and thronged the centre of the house"
Attempts to introduce a bill in the Indian parliament reserving a third of all seats for women have been scuppered by rowdy protests in the chamber of the lower house - the Lok Sabha.

The parliament's speaker said that the introduction of the bill would be indefinitely postponed because consensus had so far not been possible.

Male opponents of the bill, who say it would benefit only middle-class city women, continually disrupted proceedings, forcing several adjournments.

They demand quotas within the women's allocation for low-caste Hindu and Muslim women.

The Indian Government has said it is willing to consider quotas for low-caste Hindu women.

PM attacks behaviour

The Indian prime minister described the opposition's reaction to the bill as "disgraceful".

Speaking after the session, the president of the independent Women's Political Watch, Veena Nayyar, said a minority of men were afraid of losing their parliamentary seats to women.

"They want to just stay glued to their chairs," she said. "They just don't want to share decision-making power with women."

'A potentially explosive issue'

[ image: The opposition's reaction to the bill was described as 'disgraceful' by the Indian prime minister]
The opposition's reaction to the bill was described as 'disgraceful' by the Indian prime minister
There are already parliamentary seats reserved for some low-caste groups and certain tribes of indigenous people.

But the BBC correspondent in Delhi says that expanding this principle to include other groups at the more deprived end of the social spectrum as well as Muslims would break new legislative ground and open the potentially explosive issue of caste yet again.

In the late-1980s there was widespread violence as controversial proposals to broaden low-caste quotas in education and government service were implemented by the government of the day.

The 'battle of the sexes' continues

Uproar in the Indian parliament
Our correspondent says previous governments have tried in vain before to get the legislation passed.

In 1996 the bill was rejected by the parliament in an uproar, with some male politicians arguing that women should stay at home where they belonged.

The media had described the debate as the "battle of the sexes."

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