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Ban deprives women of their right to vote

SWABI: Rakhshanda Khalid, a housewife, feels she is deprived of her right to make a choice when a village committee decided against women’s participation in the February 18 elections.

“A vote is the only power to express my views about the future of myself and the country, but we are robbed,” Rakhshanda Khalid told Daily Times.

People of Panjpir village of Swabi district, who are “ultra conservative”, placed a ban on the voting of women in their areas for elections in the National and Provincial Assembly seats.

“We were deprived of the opportunity to make a difference,” she added. She was not alone in the criticism of the men who stopped women from voting in this particular constituency.

Political backing: A village-level organisation in Panjpir decided that women would not cast their vote and all contesting candidates from the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Awami National Party backed this decision. In other areas of this district, females used their right to vote, but in this particular area people said that decision-making should be utilised by men.

A women’s advocacy group said that many women in different parts of the province were denied the right to vote when local committees, backed by political parties, decided against women’s participation in the polls.

“In many constituencies of the tribal areas including Swat and Dir districts, no single female voter was allowed to exercise her right,” a researcher at the Aurat Foundation in Peshawar said.

Mixed response: The ban on women’s participation stirred a mixed response from people. Some people considered the move as “better”, as the law and order situation was “unsatisfactory” but others argued that poor law and order situation “affects both genders equally, so why should women be kept away from voting.” The Panjpir village, with a population of 16,000, has the highest literacy rate and the female literacy rate is also high than other areas of the Swabi District.

“The women of Panjpir are aware of their rights but they cannot raise their voice for their demand because there is no platform on which they can unite,” a primary school teacher in the village told Daily Times.

“Females make up more than half of the population of the country, but in this village, no one recognises their standing in the society on national issues like the general elections in which gender has no value,” Rukhsana, a resident of the Panjpir Village told Daily Times.
Source: Daily Times