‘Smaller cities women more independent in voting choices than big cities’

March 26,2019

Islamabad : Not long ago, women were barred from casting their votes in Lower Dir. But things have changed within a few years. This is now among the top twenty districts of the country where women...

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Islamabad : Not long ago, women were barred from casting their votes in Lower Dir. But things have changed within a few years. This is now among the top twenty districts of the country where women have not only voted, but also vetoed against the candidates their male family members voted for.

The general elections 2018 elections result have proved another perception wrong that the women of metropolitan cities are more independent in their voting preferences than the women of smaller cities.

The district and constituency-wise data of more than 17000 polling stations set up separately for women voters has proved that the women voters in smaller cities have shown different voting choices than their men.

Karachi — the largest city and business capital of the country — has the lowest average with regard to women voters independence. On average, the election result of each NA constituency reflects that there are only 3.75 polling stations where women voters have shown different voting preference than men. On the other hand, Lower Dir has two NA constituencies and there were 49 polling stations where women have voted to a different candidate than their men.

Similarly, Lahore has 14 NA constituencies and there were only 131 polling stations where women voters have shown different voting preference than their men. Whereas, 45 polling stations in two NA constituencies of Chakwal have shown that women voter’s choice was different than their men.

The general elections result of five NA constituencies of Peshawar shows that there are 109 polling stations where women voters by exercising their independence have cast their votes to a different candidate than their men. Similarly, Swat — once the hub of Taliban has shown tremendous progress with regard to women voting preference, as there were 88 polling stations where women have gone against the will of their men and voted to a different candidate.

The ECP spokesperson, the elections experts and women rights activists all are unanimous that this finding has opened a window for the women to extend their liberties while exercising their right to vote.

Pildat’s head Ahmed Bilal Mehboob thinks laws are already available to ensure women exercise their right to vote. However, it is the culture that plays the key role for giving freedom to women to exercise their right to vote. Women must be given meaningful representation in parliament and this will ultimately give confidence to other women to actively participate in the democratic process, he said.

“Women are more consistent than men in their decision making when it comes to voting preferences. In future, only those political parties will succeed to appease women and bag their votes who will address their issues. Economic independence play key role in making decisions. Those women who are economically active and more independent than the housewives”, believes Dr Farzana Bari.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP): The election data analysed by Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) shows that women in 75 polling stations of two National Assembly constituencies in district Charsadda have shown different voting choice than their men. On average, there are 34 polling stations of each constituencies where women have shown independence in their voting preference.

Similarly, there are 109 polling stations of five NA constituencies of Peshawar where women have shown different voting preference than their men. This means almost 21.8 polling stations on average have shown different women voting choice in the provincial capital of KP.

Interestingly, the election results of Lower Dir district show that women voters in 49 polling stations have shown different choice than their men. As per the data, women in 35 polling stations of Lakki Marwat, 35 polling stations of Malakand, 70 polling stations of Mardan, 57 polling stations of Nowshera, 60 polling stations of Swabi, 88 polling stations of Swat and 21 polling stations of Mansehra have shown different voting choices than their men.

Chitral, Batagram, Kurram, Shangla and Tank are five districts where women showed least independence. According to the data, these are the five districts where women showed different voting choices in less than five polling stations. Similarly, there were 7 polling stations in North Waziristan where women showed different voting choice than men.

Data further shows that at least 8 polling stations in Bajaur, 7 polling stations in Khyber Agency and 6 polling stations in Kohat have been reported where the women have shown different voting preference than their men.

Punjab: In Punjab, Faisalabad is on top of the list where women have shown more independence regarding voting choice. A total of 203 female polling stations of Faisalabad’s ten NA constituencies have shown different voting preferences than their men. Out of these ten constituencies the different voting preference trend was high in NA 107, NA-109 and NA-110 where women voted to a different candidate than their men in almost 50 polling stations in each constituency.

Rawalpindi, another big city of Punjab, has not shown as much independence as was expected.

According to General election 2018 results, there were 85 polling stations in seven NA constituencies where women have voted to a different candidate than their men. As per the data NA-62 and NA-58 are the only constituencies where women voters have exhibited maximum freedom as the female voters in 34 and 25 polling station respectively have shown different voting preferences than men.

Similarly, 68 polling stations of six NA constituencies of Gujranwala have been reported where female voters have exercised their independence in voting choice and cast their vote to a different candidate than their men. The women voters in Chakwal have shown different voting choice in almost 45 polling stations of two NA constituencies.

There were 73 polling stations of four NA constituencies in Kasur district where women voters have shown different voting preference than their men. Lahore district has 14 NA constituencies; however, there were only 131 polling stations where women observed their freedom and cast their vote to a different candidate than their men’s choice.

Multan has six national assembly constituencies and only 74 polling stations have been reported where women voters showed different voting choice than their men. Similarly, Muzaffargarh has six NA constituencies but the female voters showed different voting choices in only 56 polling stations.

As many as 94 polling stations of six NA constituencies in Rahim Yar Khan have been reported where the women voters have shown independence by casting their votes to a candidate of their choice. Similarly, the women voters have shown different voting choice than their men in as much as 86 polling stations of five NA constituencies. Sialkot has five NA constituencies out of which 82 polling stations have been reported where the women voters showed different voting preference.

There are three NA constituencies in Toba Tek Singh out of which 57 polling stations have been reported where the female voters have shown independence by casting their votes to a different candidate than their men choice.

Sindh: There are two NA constituencies in Dadu out of which 58 polling stations were those where women have shown different voting choice than their men. Similarly, Hyderabad has three NA constituencies and 106 polling stations have been reported where the women voting preferences were different than their men.

Karachi has 20 NA constituencies and only 75 polling stations were those where women have shown different voting preference than the men. This means on average there were only 3.75 polling stations per constituency where women have voted to a different candidate than their men.

There are two NA constituencies in Larkana and 51 polling stations were those where women have shown different voting preference than their men. Similarly 38 polling stations of two NA constituencies in Shaheed Benazirabad have shown that women have voted to a different candidate than their men.

Similarly, Sukkur has two NA constituencies where women voters have shown different voting preference on 39 polling stations. Umerkot and Ghotki are the two district where women voters have shown minimum independence as each district has only two polling stations where women voted to a different candidate than their men.

Balochistan: The provincial capital of Balochistan Quetta has three NA constituencies and only 32 polling stations have been reported where women have shown different voting preference than their men. Killa Abdullah has only one NA constituency and 23 polling stations have shown different women voting preference.

Similarly 16 polling stations in Nasirabad have shown different voting preference. Gwadar has only two polling stations where the election results show that women voters have voted to a different candidate than their men. There are 14 polling stations in Pishin where women voters have shown different voting preference than their men.

Talking to The News, the ECP spokesperson said he had not gone through this study; however, if true this study will be useful for the future elections.

The ECP has done a lot of work to ensure gender equality and give protection to women voters.

“We have done a lot of work to make sure that marginalized community and women voters have exercised their right to vote. For this purpose we established a gender wing. The ECP also worked with the civil society organizations to create awareness and educate the women for exercising their right to vote”, commented the ECP spokesperson.

He said the ECP ran a gender sensitization campaign before the elections and this proved to be very helpful. About the different voting choice of women, he said different regions had different cultures and this factor plays key role in women voting preferences.

Talking to The News, Pildat head Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said this is quite an interesting and useful finding for him. There was no segregated data of women voters because the election commission of Pakistan has updated the elections result for the first time and made it public.

“The findings you have narrated are quite interesting and this will help the policy makers to focus more on women voters in future elections. There are laws for the protection of women’s right to vote but to me it is the culture that plays the role for giving freedom to women for exercising her right to vote”, commented Mr Mehboob.

The policy makers should focus on two major things to ensure more and more women exercise their freedom while choosing the candidates. First the political parties need to change the pattern of five percent quota allocated for awarding the party ticket to women candidates. There is a common practice that the political parties award party tickets to women in those constituencies which are useless for the political parties because they know they cannot win there. This practice needs to be changed and the parties can adopt a policy of ‘Random Allocation of Party tickets to women candidates’.

This will empower the women if a women candidate contest the election with the full support of party and resultantly more and more female voters will also participate in the elections.

Secondly, the political parties should give meaningful representation to women in Parliamentary Boards and their voices should be heard in the decision making process. The women parliamentarian who are selected for women reserved seats are never given weightage in the parliamentary decision making because the elected members think they are not the real representatives of the people.

Talking to The News, Dr Farzana Bari said this is really an important finding because there was no segregated data before that. There are many myths regarding the women in rural areas that they are not independent and they cast their votes on their men’s choice. However, this data has proved all those myths wrong.

“There was a study on women voting preferences back in 2016 but it was limited only to a single constituency in Lahore. According to that study carried out in the by-elections of a constituency in Lahore, women voting preferences remained same in general and by-elections. However, the voting preferences of men changed in the general and by-elections which proved one thing that women are consistent in their decision making when it comes to voting preferences”, commented Dr Bari.

“Now when this data is finally available, I am sure people will conduct research on this issue that what are the dynamics of small and medium range cities which forced women to go against their men’s choice in voting process. This finding has also proved that women are changing and they are showing more independence than the past”, she said.

She said only those political parties will succeed to bag women votes who will address their issues. Over the last few years the women have got exposure and mass media has played key role in educating the women about their rights. Even the women from tribal areas who were living in Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps were not ready to go back to their native villages.

“Economic independence plays key role in making decisions. Those women who are economically active are more independent and this is the reason Faisalabad is on top of the list and women have shown different voting choices than their men”, she commented.

When asked if being financially active is the key to women independence then why the results of Karachi and Lahore are different than Faisalabad. She said, “This needs to be studied and I am sure someone will conduct research on these factors. On one side Tharparker is the most backward area of the country but the voting percentage of women was highest. Whereas Karachi which is the business capital of the country but the women voting percentage was among the lowest.”


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