Politics in South Asia has long been a male-dominated field. The symptoms of this are clear, as many countries in the region do not reserve seats for women, and during elections, most political parties in South Asian countries give limited number of tickets to women candidates. Rooted in the traditions, cultural beliefs and norms of South Asia, such barriers hinder the active participation of women in politics.
Women’s political participation is fundamental to democracy and to the achievement of sustainable development and peace in any region, which calls for more female representation in Parliament. The meaningful public and political participation can be enabled by a range of institutions, such as a country’s constitution, electoral system and temporary legal measures like gender quotas.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is one such medium through which to forward these objectives. SAARC can encourage cooperation between members, and as an institution can regulate the policy’s framework.
Once framed, the regional body can take further steps in implementing these policies by setting up units in each country to promote women in politics.
The right of women to equal participation has been agreed upon across a range of multinational human rights treaties, resolutions and laws. Despite the general increase in the number of women in leadership positions globally, there is a long way to go before this becomes a reality for all women.
In South Asia, the male political class refuses to share power with their female counterparts.
Women are worried that the unscrupulous nature of politics will endanger their physical and psychological well-being.
Female candidates are sometimes even given tickets based on family background rather than merit.
Political parties in the region should take after countries like New Zealand in having quotas within the parties themselves.
Rwanda is doing very well in this regard with their zipper system, where every third seat is reserved for women only.
Among the South Asian countries, Nepal does have an edge, given its high reservation for women in Parliament, but the same cannot be said for their role in decision-making.
Women must raise their voices and exert pressure on leaders to give more tickets to female candidates. The zipper quota system will require political parties to field a large number of female candidates.
A version of this article appears in print on July 23, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.