Pro-Women Electoral Reforms Needed for Mainstreaming Women in Politics

  • TDEA-FAFEN Organizes Workshop for Women Legislators of Punjab Assemblies

ISLAMABAD, November 16, 2021: Emphasizing the importance of pro-women electoral reforms, women legislators from the Provincial Assembly of Punjab called upon the federal government to reconsider the proposed amendment in Section 104 of the Elections Act 2017, which provides the heads of political parties more leverage in selection of candidates for reserved seats.

A part of the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2021, the proposed amendment, if passed, would allow political parties to submit final priority list of candidates for seats reserved for women and non-Muslims within three days after the declaration of general election results.

This amendment will compromise the merit for reserved-seat candidates and must not be approved by the Parliament, resolved the legislators during a workshop organized by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability and Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-FAFEN).

The workshop was part of TDEA-FAFEN’s Women Leadership Development Program that sought to support reserved-seat women legislators to contest upcoming elections on general seats. Leading parliamentary experts, officials of Punjab Assembly secretariat, and civil society representatives addressed the workshop. As many as 16 Punjab MPAs including Uzma Kardar, Saadia Sohail Rana, Kanwal Liaquat, Shazia Abid, Sabrina Javed, Farah Agha, Aisha Nawaz, Shahida Ahmad, Khadija Umar, Sajida Begum, Aysha Iqbal, Bushra Anjum, Sabeen Gul, Shamim Aftab, Rahila Khadim and Salma Sadia Taimoor participated in the workshop.

Speaking to the participants, former Senator Farhatullah Babar said the reservation of seats had empowered the political parties’ leadership far more than it empowered women. He lamented the political parties’ habit of treating women politicians as proxy of men. He said that nearly all political parties avoided awarding tickets to women in the constituencies with strong party vote bank. He urged the participants to understand their rights and privileges as legislators and exercise them to hold the government and political leadership accountable in the Assembly. He lauded the legislators’ efforts to steer pro-women legislation in the assemblies.

Women legislators from both treasury and opposition benches took exception to the gender-based discrimination during the House proceedings. They said reserved-seat women were treated as mere numbers required to complete quorum or to win a vote. They also underscored the lack of research and legislative drafting support. The legislators from across the aisle vowed to work together on women issues.

Chief Executive Officer of TDEA Shahid Fiaz said the women legislators could greatly benefit from the civil society’s expertise in diverse fields. Extending support to the legislators in building their interest-based constituencies, he said TDEA-FAFEN’s rich data on elections and governance could help legislators in their legislative and constituency duties.

FAFEN’s Executive Council Members Umme Kulsoom and Syed Kausar Abbas also assured the legislators of FAFEN’s complete support in legislative participation as well as community outreach. They highlighted the under-registration of women in electoral rolls and urged the women legislators to lure this untapped vote-bank to their side by running registration drives in their prospective constituencies. They stressed upon the need for holistic electoral reforms focusing on women’s political participation.