Friday, 29 September, 2023

Gender Voting Gap

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 30th July, 2022 08:13:40 PM
  • Print news

Pakistan’s ranking as the second-worst country in terms of gender parity on the Global Gender Gap Report reignited national conversation on the need to increase women’s participation and representation in all spheres of public life. On that front, there have been some good reports, at least on the political participation of women. According to the National Data¬base and Registration Authority (NADRA), as many as 10 million women have been added to the electoral rolls since the 2018 general elections, taking the total number of female registered voters to 56.95 million.

This is indeed an achievement, and a lot of the credit goes to NADRA and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This is a huge leap from the situation we were in five years back. These numbers reflect that the launch of the ECP-NADRA joint campaign in 2017 has been successful in the pursuit of reducing the gender gap in the electoral roll. It also shows that measures such as enacting female-only registration centres and deploying mobile registration vans to increase the registration of unregistered women in Pakistan are initiatives that work in making the political process a more inclusive one.

However, we must not celebrate too early. Increased voter registration is a good development, but it does not always translate to more voters turning up on election day. There are other significant barriers contributing to the gender voting gap, such as family restrictions and societal taboos related to women’s visibility in public life, which go beyond just institutional challenges.

It is true that we have enacted several progressive laws—Article 25 of the Constitution holds every citizen of the country equal before the law, and section 9 of Chapter 3 of the Elections Act 2017 states that any election with under 10 percent female votes can be declared void. However, the presence of those laws did not stop discrimination in certain elections, like the December 2017 by-elections for a tehsil council seat in Lower Dir where women voters were deliberately isolated and stopped from voting at polling centres. Therefore, NADRA and the ECP must also work on addressing familial and societal barriers to ensure that future election results are truly representative of all of the population.