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‘Illiterate women voters of Bajhang at risk of manipulation’

- BASANTA PRATAP SINGH, BAJHANG

Nov 23, 2017-High number of illiterate women voters in Bajhang is a cause for concern as assisted voting procedure could increase voter manipulation risk, say women rights activists in the district. 

The literacy rate of Bajhang stands at 55.5 percent as per the records at the District Coordination Committee. And it is mostly women population in the district who cannot read and write.

Jayanti Joshi, chairperson of Women Rights Forum, said it was an open secret that most women voters in the district do not vote according to their choice. 

Even if women are literate, she claimed, they are presented before election officers as illiterate voters so that their husbands or sons could vote. 

“When you have a case of assisted voters, it is the stand-in voters who will decided whom to vote for,” Joshi said, adding that most illiterate and women voters in Bajhang did not have any political say.

The case of political parties and family members manipulating assisted voters are plenty in the district.

Siddha Devi Singh, a resident of Kailsah Village in Jay Prithvi Municipality-1, has participated in five elections so far and has never voted according to her own conscience. She has studied up to grade six and has basic reading and writing skills. But she has never voted without assistance.  

“People from parties visit during the elections and tell us to show up at the voting centre. Those same people vote on our behalf on the election day,” she said. 

Raji Devi Kathayat of Masta Rural Municipality shared similar voting experience. The 78-year-old said she had never got the opportunity to vote according to her own will. 

“People say that I don’t know how to vote and they assist me. Whomever they pick that is my vote,” she said.  

Like Siddha Devi and Raji Devi, several other women the Post interviewed said they had never voted according to their preference. Some said that they did not want to go against their families and neighbours, so they voted according to their advice. 

Hira Devi Kathayat, another voter from Masta Rural Municipality, said given the opportunity to vote by herself in the upcoming elections, she would pick the leaders of her choice. 

According to the District Election Office, 53,500 of the total 104,000 registered voters in the district are female. 

Chief District Officer Dharmananda Joshi said there shall be strict monitoring of every polling centres in the district to make sure that assisted voters are not manipulated.

“We have instructed election officers about the matter. If someone is found manipulating or cheating illiterate voters, they will face action,” he said. 

Published: 23-11-2017 07:38

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