Media lauds success
Indian newspapers yesterday hailed a vote by legislators to reserve one-third of parliamentary seats for women after a debate that saw unruly protests and the suspension of several MPs.
Sonia Gandhi, the matriarch of national politics, said she was "happy for all the women of the country" after the upper house passed the bill, which now heads to the lower house where more furious opposition is expected.
Regional socialist parties have campaigned against the law since it was first proposed 14 years ago, saying it would benefit only elite Hindus unless there were specific quotas for Muslim and low-caste women.
"Women Go From Home to House" ran the headline in The Times of India, which like other dailies described the vote as a major breakthrough for women's rights.
"It is no secret that patriarchy runs deep in Indian society and women have been historically denied social, economic and political opportunities," the Times said in its editorial.
"India takes a giant leap for womankind" the Hindu newspaper declared after the vote was passed by a large majority.
The bill has threatened to split the Congress-led coalition that won last year's elections but party president Sonia, who has invested political capital in the policy, said she was committed to seeing it pass into law.
"Politics is always full of risks," said the widow of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.
"Whenever there is something revolutionary and new, there is opposition, there are difficulties in all parties, perhaps in my party too," she added.
The bill won the backing of 186 of the 248 members of the upper Rajya Sabha chamber, more than the two-thirds majority needed for the draft legislation, which would result in a constitutional change.