FAFEN Calls for Women’s Voter Registration Emergency

Male and Female Voter Registration Gap Increases in Two Years

ISLAMABAD, November 25, 2015: The difference in male and female voter registration widened from 10.97 million in May 2013 to 11.65 million in September 2015, indicating at the need for urgent efforts by political parties and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to maximize women’s voter registration ahead of General Elections 2018, says a statement issued by Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) on Wednesday.

With more than 11 and a half million female eligible voters not registered, FAFEN urged ECP to declare a “women’s voter registration emergency” and to redouble efforts in cooperation with the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA), political parties and civil society organizations nationwide to facilitate women’s voter registration. Leadership is needed from ECP now, well ahead of General Election 2018, in order to protect the right of franchise for all women in Pakistan.

NADRA’s partnership is needed because one major reason for the growing gap between male and female registration is the unwillingness or inability of many women to acquire a Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC), which is a legal prerequisite for the registration of a voter. NADRA is responsible for issuing CNICs, which have many other potential benefits for women in addition to enabling voter registration.

The increasing difference between male and female voter registration is disturbing, as registration as a voter is the primary step towards political and electoral empowerment for citizens. Despite an increase of 6.83 million registered voters between 2013 and 2015 – including 3.74 million men and 3.07 million women – the gap between the number of men and women registered grew by 0.68 million since General Election 2013. Alarmingly, the gap widened in all provinces and in Islamabad.

In 2013, there were 86.25 million registered voters, which included 48.61 men and 37.63 women. According to voter registration data released by ECP in September 2015 just before local government elections, there are now 93.07 million voters on the electoral rolls, which includes 52.36 million males but only 40.7 million females – a difference of 11.65 million.

In Punjab, the difference in male and female registration increased from 6.16 million in 2013 to 6.5 million in 2015. In Sindh, it increased from 1.98 million to 2.1 million. In KPK, the male-female voter registration gap grew from 1.74 million to 1.88 million. In Balochistan, it rose from 0.491 million to 0.494 million. In Islamabad Capital Territory, the difference between male and female voter increased from 46,113 to 55,308. Exceptionally, the gap narrowed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas from 549,549 to 536,239 voters.

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