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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Assessing the Participation of Women in Pakistani Politics

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Introduction

Over the last half-century, democracies have made remarkable strides toward gender parity in political power and wealth. The number of women running for and being elected to national parliaments is at an all-time high, and there are more women than ever before serving in executive capacities inside national governments.

Women have made great strides in acquiring influence and representation at the highest levels of government, but a number of studies show that the gender gap in political involvement persists, with women being less active than males. There is still a significant gender gap notwithstanding women’s advancement to positions of power and increased participation in the workplace. Gender is a cleavage that cuts across other areas of stratification, making it significant for all citizens.

The fact that women have less access to different socioeconomic resources, which makes them less likely to engage in political activities, is one of several factors that have been presented as a potential explanation for this phenomenon. For instance, in the United States, employment is positively correlated with political involvement, knowledge, and efficacy, and men are more likely than women to have full-time work.

Therefore, considering participants’ employment conditions may aid in reducing the gender participation gap. Despite this, studies done in the US show that women have less political knowledge, interest, and effectiveness than men do. This is a primary explanation for the gender gap. There is a chance that women’s limited access to political resources, such as political interest and expertise, is the result of societal processes like gender socialization.

What does the case of Pakistan say?

When it comes to gender equality, Pakistan ranked second-worst on the Global Gender Gap Index in 2016. Despite the fact that women’s political involvement is crucial to attaining gender parity, there is a significant gap between the representation of the sexes in the government of Pakistan.

It is critical that women and men have equal positions in governance. Findings from this research show that in various areas of public policy in Pakistan’s main cities, women’s interests differ from those of males. This shows that a shift in the proportion of women voting might have a major impact on the discussions over public policy.

During the 2018 general election in Pakistan, there was a gender gap of 9.1 percentage points, with 11 million fewer women voting than men. While local elites and political actors seldom attempt to restrict female voting in urban areas, many individuals feel that local norms in rural districts are to blame for the massive gender gap in participation.

Voter participation in 2018 was much higher in the largest cities compared to the other seats in each province as a whole. Lahore, the largest city in the province of Punjab, has a gender gap in voter turnout that is nearly double that of the rest of the province (12.5% vs 6.3%). Disappointingly, just 20% of Pakistan’s 46 million eligible women voters cast votes in the 2018 election. The rise of women in politics is hampered by both social and institutional barriers.

Explaining the Gender Gap in Political Participation in Pakistan

The most important aspects in the society that affect women’s political engagement are men’s views on women’s political action and the conditions under which women are allowed to vote. It is often accepted that men have a critical role as gatekeepers in determining whether or not women participate in politics, and that men’s individual views and society norms have a substantial influence on whether or not women opt to vote.

This sex discrimination occurs because women must ask males for permission to do particular things, and some of these requests are granted more easily than others. Younger women are less politically active than their elders were because of concerns about personal safety and family responsibilities.

The higher the level of political and electoral literacy among women, the higher the rate at which they will cast ballots in elections. Women’s low political literacy is closely associated with their disinterest in politics, which is substantially tied to the disinterest of political parties in reaching out to women voters.

Many of the women in our focus groups felt that political parties paid them little to no attention. As political parties have historically relied on males to organize the women in their households, there has been little opportunity for women to engage with political parties on an individual level. The failure of political parties in large cities to recruit and retain more women in leadership positions may be a factor in women’s lack of interest in politics.

The Way Forward

To make politics of Pakistan more exclusive, women participation is paramount. Pakistan is facing a number of challenges in this domain. The policies that are carved out are usually hysterical. Even if a policy holds enough water, then the institutional setup is not strong enough to implement it.

Therefore, a three-point agenda may boost political participation of women in Pakistan. These points are in line with the issues causing gender gap in Pakistani politics. These points are as follow:

  • To encourage more women to vote, programmes run by the civil society in urban areas might be quite helpful.
  • If political parties make an attempt to reach out to women, they may encourage more women to become involved in politics. Until political parties considerably expand the number of women working for and being nominated by the party, they will not be able to make any headway. When it comes to elections, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should do more to raise the profile of women voters among political parties.
  • The formation of women’s collective action groups in residential areas is one tactic that shows promise in combating women’s political marginalization. These organizations would provide a safe space for women to talk about the challenges they have in requesting service improvements from their representatives at the federal, state, and local levels of government.
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