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Votes for women

According to data published by the ECP, the electoral gender gap has come down to 9.94 million from the previous 12.49 million. This is significant, given the country’s political landscape is generally unwelcoming towards women. Out of the 128 million registered voters, 46.13 per cent or 59.32 million are women. There are multiple reasons for this lack of women’s representation in the electoral process. First, it is mandatory for voters to hold a CNIC for registration. As shocking as it may sound, there are thousands of women in the country who do not hold CNICs. Second, most households still do not consider a woman’s voice to be of any value in elections. The patriarch decides whom to vote for and rarely gives any attention to what a woman has to say. That this is a reality for thousands of women is frustrating, given how women in Pakistan played (and continue to play) a big role in politics. It was women who led resistance movements against the conservative laws of the late Gen Zia and created a strong opposition against him.

While it is true that there are societal barriers that restrict women’s movement and keep them away from actively participating in elections, there is also little to no incentive for women to vote. Even today, most political parties are guilty of making misogynist statements against women. The taunts made on the character of women who participate in rallies of rival political parties point to a sad truth: Pakistani society still has a long way to go to completely abandon its gender bias. This cannot continue for long. Women need to have a say in electing leaders that can work towards addressing their issues and problems. In the past, we saw how the former prime minister took a serious matter of women’s sexual abuse lightly, putting the blame on the victim. Then we had another former prime minister who said that women at his jalsas don’t dance, implying that those who do are somewhat inferior. Such statements push women away from taking part in the election campaigns of political parties or voting for leaders who have a history of making misogynist comments.

Besides this, political parties also have to do a lot to make the election process safe for everyone, including women. Voting centres should be properly guarded to reduce the chances of any scuffles that mostly turn violent. In areas where women cannot travel independently, there should be designated vans to take women to the polling station. If the country is serious about including the voice of women in the electoral process, it should work towards fixing the loopholes that keep women away from this exercise. For a strong democracy, we must embrace the principles of inclusivity.

Source: The News