- Transgender, disabled and women rights’ activists demand inclusive electoral process
ISLAMABAD, December 17, 2017: A unique coalition for transgender, disabled and women rights’ activists has been launched to take part in the electoral process in the upcoming general election and exercise their right to vote independently, in secret and with dignity.
The coalition of 30 transgender, disabled and women rights activists titled “Coalition for Inclusive Pakistan (CIP)” was launched in Islamabad on Sunday, with the support of Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability (TDEA), and has the representation of the marginalized persons from all over the country.
The purpose of forming such an alliance was in line with the provisions of the Elections Act 2017 that contain certain positive aspects to facilitate participation of transgender, disabled and women in the electoral process.
Taking part in the launching event, the participants urged the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that the new election law is implemented in letter and spirit. They also appreciated the work being done by Gender and Disability Electoral Working Group of the ECP and said that CIP would closely work with it for the achievement of their electoral rights.
Qamar Naseem, Program Coordinator, Blue Veins said that the barriers that hinder the participation of the transgender people, the disabled and women in electoral process and restrict their ability to exercise their right to vote are actually the barriers that hinder their participation in mainstream life. These barriers put curbs on their ability to exercise their other basic rights and in the enjoyment of fundamental freedoms. He said the ECP should make arrangements so that transgender voters are able to cast their vote independently and with dignity on equal basis with others and should train polling staff in this regard.
Ms. Gulalai Ismail, Executive Director, Aware Girls said at present Section 12c requires ECP to conduct public awareness programs and media campaigns regarding the importance of maximum voter enrollment and participation in election of women. She demanded that transgender people and people with disabilities along with women should also be included in such programs and campaigns through progressive interpretation of the Section 12c.
Jawaid Rais, President Disabled Welfare Association said that it is a welcome development that Section 93 facilitates voters with disabilities to cast their votes through postal ballots. However, it should be noted that the option of postal ballots supplements and does not supplant the right to vote of the disabled voters in public. Therefore, the ECP should develop criteria for the selection of polling stations and such a criterion should give preference to polling stations that have greater level of accessibility for wheel chair users. He said the ECP should develop a mechanism to ensure that inaccessible polling stations are not included in the polling scheme.
Jawaid also urged the ECP to ensure that its public service messages on voter education in the lead up to general elections are delivered in sign language as well so that these messages are accessible for speech and hearing-impaired voters. Similarly, ECP should create awareness and train polling staff about the right of the blind and visually impaired voters to cast their vote independently, in secret and with dignity with the help of a companion or the polling staff.
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