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Gender gap pervades political parties

Published : 02 Feb 2023 01:38 AM | Updated : 02 Feb 2023 02:35 PM

]are awfully low.

 The country has a long streak of continuous female rule as a female prime ministers have led the country for about 30 years after 1991. However, in the reality of Bangladesh politics, this long period of female leadership regime doesn’t reflect the proper participation of women in politics.

 The reality of women’s current participation reflects that a gender gap still exists in the political decision-making in the country.

 Although the prime minister is a woman, only five of 54 members of the current Cabinet are women. In the last general elections, only 36 women were nominated for 300 parliamentary seats, of which 22 won the parliamentary polls. 

However, most of them were elected as widow or daughter of any political leaders.

On the other hand, key position However, most of them were elected as widow or daughter of any political leaders.

 On the other hand, key positions at the local level like mayor and chairman posts remain mostly occupied by men. There are less than 50 women in local leadership positions compared with over 5,500 men.

 Rounaq Jahan, a political scientist and a former professor of Dhaka University said that like many other countries in the world, the politics in Bangladesh is viewed as a male space. She observed that religious and cultural norms promote Bangladeshi women as mothers and wives while men are the breadwinners. Politics is seen as dirty and corrupting for women. So, they are usually not interested in politics, she added.

 ccording to Rounaq Jahan and many other political analysts, the male leaders in the political parties often see men as better candidates. Women in both major parties said that their male leaders select other men to run.

 Female political activists are often confined to woman wings, which hold little influence over important decisions. Such situation undermines women’s ability to advance the careers of other women. However, the reserved-seat system has turned into a farce.

 Meanwhile, all the political parties of the country failed to ensure 33 per cent of representation at its committees at local and national levels reserved for women before the deadline.

 Reserving at least 33 per cent of all committee positions for women by 2020 is a pre-requisite for any political party’s registration with the Election Commission (EC) in line with the Representation of the People Order (RPO), 1972.

 The EC in 2008 gave the deadline of 12 years in order to encourage and ensure more participation of women in the politics. The EC could not make the political parties comply with the condition despite repeatedly issuing notices.

 The deadline ended two years ago as well as in 2020, but the target of 33 per cent posts for women in the political parties has not been fulfilled till now. “The women’s representation in Bangladesh’s political parties at 33% is still far-fetched,” said BadiulAlamMajumder, secretary of ShusashonerJonnoNagorik (Shujan).

 Reviewing central committees of some political parties it is seen that not a single registered political party could induct at least 33 per cent woman members into committees at national and grassroots levels.

 The percentage of women in the Awami League’s central committee is 23%, while the percentage in the BNP’s committee is 13%.

 The Awami League has some 13.86 percent women in its central committee, including its president, two presidium members and seven different secretaries. On the other hand, BNP has 11.15 percent as only 56 women are in their 502-member central committee. The other parties also failed to fulfil the target.

 However, the Election Commission has not taken any initiative till now although the deadline ended more than two years ago.

 Some women leaders and activists working on the woman issue said that the EC should take initiative to implement the 33 per cent representation of women in the political parties. If required, the EC may extend the timeframe.

 “We need more women in power and politics to understand and raise important issues that women face. So, the RPO’s provision of women representation in the political parties should be implemented strictly,” NasimaAkter Joly, secretary of National Girl Child Advocacy Forum; told Bangladesh Post.  

 However, political leaders and analysts view   that it is difficult to ensure 33 per cent women’s representation within some years. It will be difficult even for the major political parties, including the ruling Awami League, BNP and Jatiya Party.

 Talking to Bangladesh Post on Wednesday, M Golam Mostafa Bhuiyan, secretary general of Bangladesh National Awami Party (Bangladesh NAP); said that no party, including Bangladesh NAP, has yet met the EC’s directive to induct 33 per cent women. He argued that women don’t come forward to join politics.

 Four registered political parties claimed that they ensured one-third women’s representation in their central committees. The parties are, National Awami Party, Gono Front, KhelafatMajlis and Zaker Party. According to their claim, the 33 per cent posts for women have not been fulfilled in other committees, including at the grassroots level.

 However, the women are rarely seen in activities of the parties. It seems that the four parties have met the condition on paper, but in reality they are far behind. Political analysts observed.

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