Women demand higher representation in politics -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Women demand higher representation in politics

ISLAMABAD: A dialogue about political participation of women concluded on Wednesday and participants said that 33 per cent of the National Assembly’s members should be women. The participants also demanded a 20 per cent representation for women as ministers and advisors. They said that all political parties should have 50 per cent female members, and any party failing to meet the criteria should not be registered.

The dialogue “Political Participation of Women under Political Parties Order (PPO) 2002 and in Local Government System” was organised in Islamabad by the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW)-which examines the policies adopted by our government for development of women – in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Canadian International Development Agency.

Yasmeen Rehman (Advisor to the Prime Minister on Women Development), Anis Haroon (Chairperson NCSW) , Asma Bokhari (head of ADB project for NCSW), Rakhshanda Naz (researcher at NCSW), Tahira Abdullah (renowned social activist), and representatives of civil society and legal experts were present at the occasion.

Results for two research projects undertaken by NCSW studying the impact of local body systems on women and the gender review of political framework of women’s political participation were also presented. According to the research, political parties together with jirga heads and representatives of other parallel legal systems keep women away from the political processes in the country.

Dr Rukhshanda Naz, in her speech, said that while the existing laws declared capturing of polling stations and polling agents in a bid to prevent voting as illegal, they fail to address other means employed to prevent people from voting. These methods include life threats, loud speaker announcements, wall chalking and political agreement among political parties or candidates to stop their women from voting.

She recommended that the existing law be changed to declare harassment of women voters a crime. She added that election results be declared null and void in places where women were prevented from voting.

Dr Naz further said that there should be more polling stations near houses and urged the government to review the law that restricts setting up of polling stations to government buildings only. She suggested that pictures of women be affixed on National Identity Cards to prevent bogus voting and that Nadra’s list be treated as a voters list. Participants also criticised the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for having no female members and said that it should have at least one female member. They added that there should ideally be 10 per cent women in ECP’s administration.

They felt that the majority of women in Pakistan were discouraged from running in an election and threatened on religious pretexts. The government, they said, should provide full support to female candidates and fund their campaigns.

Some participants demanded that political parties be bound to give a certain percentage of “strong seats” to women in general elections and that there be constituencies reserved for women exclusively.

Yasmeen Rehman promised to try and inculcate these recommendations in the political process. “I will take these recommendations to [ECP] personally,” she said.
Source: The Express Tribune