Fears of representation turning into tokenismWomen leaders and activists fear that political leaders will reduce women’s representation in Parliament into mere tokenism by interpreting the constitutional guarantee of 33 percent in favour of men and would tip the balance by allocating lesser seats in the lower house of Parliament.
Women leaders and activists fear that political leaders will reduce women’s representation in Parliament into mere tokenism by interpreting the constitutional guarantee of 33 percent in favour of men and would tip the balance by allocating lesser seats in the lower house of Parliament.
The constitution has ensured one third representation of women in Parliament but it does not go into details about how the targeted number will be achieved.
The fear is that women will still be an afterthought in allocating seats and that the gap in numbers would be filled through nominations to the upper house. While the upper house plays an important role, it is seen as the weaker of the two houses in most parliamentary democracies.
“In order to ensure 33 percent seats, certain percentage of constituencies will have to be set aside for women in the first-past-the-post system of election or else we will never reach the targeted number,” said Sashi Shrestha, past president of he Inter-Party Women Alliance (IPWA).
Recent results show that relying on proportional representation system alone will not be enough to get one third women in Parliament, she said. Fewer women are winning elections in Nepal. In the first Constituent Assembly election in 2008, women had won 30 seats but the number dropped to 10 seats in the second CA election in 2013.
This is attributed to women leaders not being able to compete with the men, muscle and money against male leaders in a patriarchal society.
The 275-member lower house has 165 constituencies under first-past-the-post system, which means women will have to win 54.45 seats in order to ensure 33 percent, which women leaders claim is next to impossible. Bringing in a bulk of women from the proportional representation system, under which there are 110 seats, will not be enough, they claim.
“The proportional representational system has 110 seats. Even if you reserve half of it for women, they will have only 55 seats. If women win just 10 seats like in the previous election, how will you ensure one third representation?” questions Kalyani Rijal, an NC leader.
While officials at the Election Commission are drafting a ‘fair law’ that will spell out how the representation will be ensured, they worry that party leaders will dilute it before it is endorsed.
“I cannot reveal all the details at the moment but we are developing a system that will ensure proportional representation of not just women but other marginalised communities as well. We will soon send it to the Cabinet for approval,” said Ayodhee Prasad Yadav, the acting chief election commissioner.
Women leaders have also demanded that the constitution ensure that the President and Vice President belong to different gender and that the two important posts be rotated among male and female leaders. Article 70 of the constitution provisions representation of different gender and community during the election for the two top posts.