WITH a general election coming up in 2018, it is troubling to learn that the gap between registered male and female voters has increased to 12.7m out of a total of 97.01m voters, with men comprising 56.26pc and women 43.74pc of the electorate. In other words, of the overall number of registered voters in the country today, 54.59m are men and 42.42m are women. Ahead of the local government polls in 2015, the difference between registered voters of both genders was 11.65m. Before that, at the time of the 2013 general election, there were 11.04m more male registered voters than female. The latest figures, which were shared by the secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday, came to light as a result of an exercise to revise electoral rolls.
The fact that men are being included on voters’ lists at a faster rate than women, whose numbers already lag behind that of men, is a matter of concern. It means that a steadily declining ratio of women can participate in what is an essential feature of a democracy — the process of selecting their representatives at various tiers of government. Of course, another aspect of female disenfranchisement is manifested at the other end of the electoral exercise where, in some of the country’s more conservative areas, even women who are registered are not allowed to cast their ballot. However, while this violation of women’ right to vote — in which reactionary local chapters of political parties collude — must be addressed, registration is the first step towards electoral empowerment. It is worth determining whether the women ‘missing’ from the lists are in possession of CNICs, without which they cannot be included on the rolls. This should be remedied without delay so that the gender gap can be bridged in time for the next election. Both the ECP and the political parties must make every effort to ensure that the democratic process does not leave the women of this country behind.