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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Under-representation of Women: Still An Issue for Bhutan

The second parliamentary election came to an end yesterday with  PDP winning the maximum seats to the Parliament  to from the new government.  With 15  seats for DPT we still have a strong opposition. However,it is concerning when  we look at the participation of women in this election . The primary round had satisfying women candidates in the parties with two Women President. However, both the parties with Women President were voted out that left very minimum women candidates for the general elections. The total women contestants was just 9 out of which only 3 won the seats to National Assembly.This accounts to just 6.3% of female out of the total candidates which is even lesser than the first election which was less than 14%.Thus Bhutan is still left with the issue of under representation women in parliament(with no women elected  to National Council).
The reasons behind very few participants needs to be researched. However, one of the leading factors is the deep rooted societal and traditional views on women leadership and gender roles. Traditionally, people always believed that it is men who should occupy the leadership positions. There are many challenges a women participants to public life face. For instance, there is lack of confidence from the electorates on Women candidates. Thus, there are very few of them who get opportunity to display their leadership qualities. I sill remember in the primary round of election how one of my friends was told not to vote for female candidate on religious ground which was negatively connoted. 

Thus, Bhutan still has stereotypical views on female leadership. Despite all the efforts made by KCD production among the electorates on the female leadership, it failed to bring change in attitude among the electorates. Even  both  the PDP and DPT failed to encourage more female participation as candidates.

Now, the question of quota arise  at this juncture. Although quota has many negative connotations related to it , it is high time Bhutan start to think about the issue of under-representation of women in parliament and about its  implementation because the incremental methods does not seems to be working in Bhutanese context in changing the attitude of people towards female leadership. Denmark took more than 60 years by applying the incremental track to bring women participation. If Bhutan waits for this long , its going to be too late for Bhutan especially when we have alternatives at hand.
Thus,there is need for quota in Bhutanese parliament. How can just 6% represent more than 50% of the population. I see it as a big challenge because women have very different approach to doing things and tackling problems. Need of the women an be understood by women themselves only.I know our Bhutanese women are modest in coming out to speak out loud compared to men but that does not make them less capable then men. Women like to work behind the scene and do less talking(entirely my view though).
Policies must ensure that it will create enabling condition for women to come out. Without female leaders the possibility of ensuring this is very less. Thus, we need more women leaders. 

Quota must be encouraged in Bhutanese Parliament. It will boost the confidence of other women to come out and in long run increase female participation. If quota is thought to be asserting inequality for  men then it must be implied only for some time until critical minimum is reached.

The equality according to international standard is measured through female participation at the leadership position (eg, parliament). Few may argue that Bhutanese women are given equal opportunities. However, equality in legality does not ensure equity in reality. We need to see the attitudes which determines how people view about women. Thus, It is high time Bhutan decide on quota system for women.

Despite having just three female parliamentarians,  I anticipate to see the first Female Minister this time.

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