Women in Pakistan constitutes about 48.76 of the total population according to the 2017 census. Women, despite being in large number are still in gloom. According to several surveys done by organizations such as Pak Voter about 12 Million women are still unregistered and missing from the voter list and are unable to carry out their right to vote. A few measures have been taken by the government of Pakistan such as special allocation of quota in the parliament and provincial assemblies. Reserved seats for women in the provincial local government systems, however, these are not enough.
In the 2018 general election, according to the data collected by the National Commission on the Status of Women with the help of the Election Commission of Pakistan, only eight women won National Assembly elections on general seats out of the total 171 women contestants for the lower house. On general seats for provincial assemblies, eight women won the elections out of 296 total women candidates for provincial assemblies. According to section 206 of the Elections Act 2017, all political parties are bound to issue 5% general seat tickets to women. This method of adding reserved seats in the parliament may contribute to an increase in women legislatures but does not necessarily bring better legislation on women issues or inclusivity for women without political connections.
It is believed that women are not taken as serious candidates in the general seats however they are still willing to take up this challenge. The main reason for women not able to win in general seats is due to the low number of women candidates contesting on them. Women are mostly sidelined and are predominantly limited to the reserved seats. Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf MPA Nausheen Hamid stated that there is an impression in the political sphere in the country that women would not be able to win the general seats. The impacts of gender inequality also play their part in the political atmosphere. Women in Pakistan discriminated against based on gender, ultimately impacts the women election contestants not only on the general seats but also the reserved seats.
A wide range of research has demonstrated that voter stereotypes about gender insert essential importance to a great extent on female candidates. It has been observed that women gain a deliberate advantage when they run as women emphasizing issues that voters equate with mainly female candidates and aiming female voters. It has been further suggested that one of the keys to success for female candidates is to wage campaigns that use voter temperament towards gender as an asset rather than a liability.
Carol Bellamy a US democrat stated that “Until women (candidates) know they can be who they are, act like they are, sound like they are, we’re not going to make any progress”
June 14, 2021
Student of International Relations