Revised bills could affect women’s representation

  • provincial, national polls
EC officials and female lawmakers say removal of the ‘competition among women only’ provision shuts one possible window of higher women representation

Jul 16, 2017-Women’s representation and their leadership development could be affected by the bills on Elections of House of Representative and Provincial Assembly as they have failed to ensure the provision related to “competition among women only”.

The Election Commission-drafted bills had the provision of “competition among women only” in some constituencies under the first-past-the-post electoral system. 

But the provision has been removed from the bills which were registered in the Parliament Secretariat on June 11.

EC officials and women lawmakers say removal of the provision could affect women representation at both federal and provincial parliaments, as it shuts one possible window of higher women representation.

Women’s representation in the current Parliament is around 30 percent despite the constitutional provision of 33 percent women representation. This is because of the provision in the Election to the Members of the Constituent Assembly Act 2013, which said parties not picking more than 30 percent women members under proportional representation did not need to ensure 33 women representation. 

Election Commissioner Ila Sharma said the EC had proposed the provision of “competition among women only” under FPTP because it would have given more space to parties to fulfil the constitutional obligation. This would have also helped in leadership development of women, she said. 

Most of the women lawmakers in current Parliament were appointed under the proportional representation system. But women lawmakers have the impression that those appointed under the proportional system are not “valued” by the party leadership as much as those who are directly elected. 

They also believe that there is a strong tendency among parties to pick female candidates for the constituencies where the parties are likely to lose. 

“The provision of competition among women only in certain constituencies would have been an important step towards ensuring women’ representation and their leadership development,” said Shrimaya Thakali, vice-president of Women Lawmakers’ Coordination Committee, a caucus of cross-party lawmakers. “We have long been calling for this provision.” 

Women lawmakers also pointed at recent local elections where the legal provision required parties to pick woman candidates either for chief or deputy chief post, thereby ensuring women in leadership positions. 

 “Until women’s representation is legally ensured, we cannot expect the party leadership to be serious about the issue,” said Thakali. 

Since the bills are yet to be discussed in Parliament, women lawmakers said they would demand the provision of “competition among women only”. 

“We will do our best to make laws women-friendly through the forum of Women’s Lawmakers Coordination Committee,” said Rekha Sharma, a lawmaker from the ruling CPN (Maoist Centre). 

Officials at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the two agencies tasked with drafting the bills, said the provision proposed by the poll body was removed because it could have “discouraged many active male politicians from engaging in politics” in districts with only one constituency. 

Published: 16-07-2017 07:48

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