Women in Representation & Election

With the advancement of Social science research in Bangladesh during the past two and half decades the concept of ''Women empowerment'' has gained currency.

Women's empowerment in Bangladesh connotes more power for women in order to reduce inequalities between men and women in all spheres of life. It constitutes a powerful means of social development that encompases cultural, economic and political dimensions of development of a premodern society. It also refers to a state of social modernization in which its entire social system shall promote equal education for men and women, provide social justice equally to women and ensure the latter's participation in polities.

The existing system which has provision for indirect elections to 30 reserved seats for women in the parliament would expire on April 4, 2001. This system has always been a controversial issue since its inception in 1972. The purpose of the policy makers for creating such a provisions was to ensure women's participation in the legislative body of the government. But in the last 28 years the role of the 30 women MP has been reduced to the service of filling up qourum or thumping of dests. Moreover as these 30 seats reserved for women were filled through indirect election, they became more of a bonus for the ruling party then an effective force.

As women are not properly represented in the parliament which is adversely affecting women's empowerment and their representation in politics.

Reserved seats for women :

Many countries in the world which have ensured women's participation in the parliament by using the system of reserved seats . Bangladesh like many other countries find it necessary to have the quota. The question is raised as to why the system is dysfunctional in case of Bangladesh whereas in many countries this system has been quite satisfactory . It has worked in other countries due to the mode of election to the reserved seats. In our case the problem lies with the parties that they represent . They act as puppets on behalf of the political parties they represent. Consequently women's participation in the national legislative has never been effective as a result has contributed a very little in nation building as a whole. This is quite unfortunate and does not add any value to the democracy of the country. Moreover the number of reserved seats for women is very insignificant compare to the number of women , which constitutes half of the country's population.

It should be mentioned that although the P.M. and oppossition party leader in Bangladesh are women unfortunately the issues of women's political empowerment received very insignificant importance in the agenda of political parties that resulted almost no contribution in the overall national development.

Thinking of the Rulling and Opposition Parties :
Rulling partly :

The government had already placed a bill before the Jatiya Sangsad for continuation of current system . But the bill cannot be passed without the support of two thirds of members of parliament. At present opposition party members are boy-cotting the J.S Sessions. Opposition party :

Leading opposition party B.N.Ps vice chairman Barrister Nazmul Huda (M.P) said his party is in favour of allocating more reserved seats to women than those exists vow in the present parliament and was not in favour of supporting a bill which would propose reservation of women's seat at the existing level.

Women's rights organizations along with the human rights organization & different N.G.O.S are urging the politician to ensure equitable J.S. seat distribution :

At a dialogue on ''Women in parliament '' Jointly Organized by Fair Election Monitoring Alliance (FEMA), The Daily star & the Centre for Alternative was held at LGED Bhaban on the 10th August participants demanded discentimuation of indirect elections of women legislators to the Jatiya Sangsad & equitable distribution of male & female representation in the parliament.

The programme was divided in two session. In the first session, the country's leading women activities as well as women representative form of 64 districts discussed form of discriminations and drawbacks in the present system in the parliament. In the second session, MP's from three major political parties shared their ideas.

The speaker in the first session vehemently empressed their indignation towards existing system.

The MP's discussed the issue from their point of view and pointed out some practical problems regarding the issue.

Public opinion :

A survey has been done to find what the people are thinking on women representation.

Among the 200 people 77.5% found the women MP's participation in parliament inactive.

91.5% thought that existing election process of women MP's needs to be reformed. 88 % given their opinion in favour of direct election.

The above survey proves that people are not satisfied by the role played by the women MP's they also do not support the existing process of women MP's.

Why this system should be changed :

We feel that this system should be changed because :

Firstly : As the women MP's are elected by the 300 MP's, they remain virtually cornered and powerless can hardly play an active role. This is the reason for demanding the direct election.

Secondly : 30 seats reserved for women are inadequate because the population have doubled since 1971. (In 71 the population was 7 crore and now in 2000 it is more than 12 crore.) So 30 seats for women so far which is any thing but practical.

Finally : The fact that half of the population are women and half of the voters are women, So 30 seats reserved for women which is an injustice to them. After all parliamentary democracy believes in equal rights of each and every individual without any type of discrimination let alone that of gender.

Recommendations :

To ensure effective participation of women in the law marking process following measures are very important :-

  1. Provision should be made for direct election
  2. The present inadequate number of seats to be increased.
  3. In addition political parties should nominate 25% women candidates in parliament.
  4. Adequate training provisions for women MP's is also needed.

Conclusion :

As the country's half of the population are women without meaningful participation of women in the legislative process. We cannot make real progress. We must ensure effective participantion of women in the law making process. The present system of 30 reserved seats is not only contrary to democratic practice but also gives undue advantage to the majority party.

It is true that there exist some problems regarding the changes in the election process of women but these problems could early be overcome with the cooperation of the entire society.

Infact direct election in the seats reserved for women in the local government body (UP) this year for the first time shows that the movement towards women empowerment has gained enough strenghts to reckon with.

There is no denying the fact that women empowerment is a must in order to bridge the huge gender gap that ignores half of the population equally capable & potential otherwise the dream to build an economically, socially & politically better, Bangladesh will remain a far cry; it is a titanic task given the illiteracy, social taboos, superstitions of the people in general & male chairmanism in particular. The issue of women's representation in the parliament is the most important aspect of women empowerment.