NGOs call for implementation of Pakistan’s commitments to promote equal participation of women in elections

Karachi: The Aurat Foundation and Democracy Reporting International DRI have called upon different branches of the state to provide gender disaggregated data, meaningfully consult with women’s groups, and undertake additional special measures to promote women’s political participation in Pakistan.

In the jointly produced paper ‘Women’s Participation in the Upcoming 2013 Elections: Pakistan: Pakistan’s International Law Commitments under CEDAW’, the Aurat Foundation and DRI presented recommendations aimed at improving fulfilment of women’s right to participate in political and public life as enshrined under the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Again Women CEDAW.

Aurat Foundation and DRI identified areas where Pakistan is not compliant with the requirements for political participation of women protected under CEDAW, which was ratified by Pakistan in 1996. Significant problems in Pakistan persist with regard to participation of women as voters and as well as candidates. Only twenty percent of members of the National Assembly and eighteen percent of the provincial assemblies are women. Merely three percent of directly elected seats are held by women in the National and the provincial assemblies. Moreover there are reportedly eleven million fewer women registered as voters than men in the electoral rolls.

Aurat Foundation and DRI recommend that the Election Commission of Pakistan ECP and the National Database and Registration Authority NADRA provide publicly accessible gender disaggregated data broken down by administrative units in order to enable effective scrutiny of women’s political participation; and that political parties be required to publicly provide regular and standardized information about the number and proportion in women in their executive and leadership positions.

Consultations with women’s groups could also be carried out to discuss how legislation and administrative regulations can be improved to facilitate greater participation of women in the electoral process.

The ECP carries special responsibility to promote greater participation and in protecting the rights of women voters. It could carry out specialized voter education; increase the integrity of polling stations, improve accessibility to polling including through recruitment of female staff, undertake stronger action against those curtailing the rights of women voters, and promote scrutiny by women observers and agent. The Aurat DRI paper also supports additional measures by parties and civil society to safeguard the rights of women voters.

Maria Rashid from Rozan stated that the joint Aurat DRI briefing paper came at an opportune time when elections are around the corner and many reforms relating to women’s participation in elections remain unaddressed: ‘The paper offers crucial recommendations for Pakistan to fulfil its international obligations with regard to women’s political rights.”

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