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July 13, 2018

Token gesture


July 13, 2018

Despite a new law passed by parliament last year under which all political parties were to allocate at least five percent of tickets on general seats to women, it appears that in our patriarchal political system most political parties have attempted to sidestep this condition. Of 5758 ticket holders from almost 94 political parties there are only 305 female candidates. This makes up 5.2 percent of the total ticket holders. However they are not evenly divided within the parties, with about 45 percent of the parties not fielding even a single female candidate. What is even more disturbing is the apparent attempt made by all mainstream parties including those which claim liberal credentials to ensure female candidates are not elected. Women appear to have been handed out tickets merely as a token gesture. The PTI for example has chosen to give women seats in Upper Dir and other areas where there is no tradition of female participation in polling. It is considered unlikely that these women can win against candidates put up by other parties. The PPP, the PML-N, the ANP and others have acted in a similar fashion, handing out tickets to their women candidates on the toughest seats where they face the strongest opposition. It is as not yet clear if the ECP will act against those parties which fail to meet the rule of allocating five percent of tickets to women.

In the 2013 election six women were elected to the National Assembly on general seats and 10 to the four provincial assemblies. In addition there are 60 reserved seats for women in the NA and also reserved seats in each of the provincial assemblies. However, experts argue that for mainstreaming women in politics it is essential they participate on directly elected seats. The pattern so far has been that only wealthy politically influential women win on these seats. It appears that even with the decision that all parties must allocate more general seat tickets to women, things will not change. The parties seem to have made it a point to regard women as dispensable and put up their names from seats they are very likely to lose. There are only a few exceptions. While there have been an improvement in the number of women entering the National and provincial since the 1970 election, we must keep in mind that women form almost 50 percent of the population and deserve representations in assemblies in keeping with this figure. Developing countries such as Rwanda and Cuba which top the IPU list for representation of women have been able to bring well over 50 percent of women into parliament. So have other nations. We should be striving to do the same and can achieve this only if our mainstream political parties lead the way.

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