Women democratic rights still repudiated in rural Pakistan

A Pakistani woman has never been encouraged to take decisions regarding state’s political future. Women in Pakistan constitute forty eight percent of the aggregate population. About seventy percent of them are settled in rural areas. More than half of the total populations, eligible voters in the country are women but unfortunately do not use their right to vote for various reasons including that a large sum of women are not allowed to exercise their right to vote either by their community, tribes or local representatives in the area. Women that have made their proximity felt in the political setup is because they were successors of their political dynasties. For others participation in local politics is like an adventure.

In Pakistan a number of tribal representatives and religious leaders have been found threatening women that want to use their vote or contest elections. Within the first local bodies election in 2000-01, in Balochistan and NWFP the political parties and their candidates extended an agreement to curb women from casting their votes in various constituencies including Swabi, Mardan and Dir districts. Thus, in FATA not a single woman used her vote.

Similarly, in Jamrud out of 6,600 registered women voters, only 37 voted. The seized women democratic rights in rural areas do not end here. The situation gets worse when it comes about women participating in electoral process. In (Lower) Dir only 8 women succeeded to file their nomination papers out of 204 reserved seats.

Conservative tribal customs supported by tribal leaders intimidate women and it is feared that almost 400,000 registered voters within various districts may not be permitted to vote again. Penalties do exist in law for those who try to prevent voters from casting their vote still several reports have been reported in many NWFP districts where women are threatened from exercising there voting right. 24 districts in NWFP, Batgram, Upper Dir, Lower Dir and Kohistan have a stiffer and rigid stance on barring women from their vote rights. Assad Ullah, a student said, “Women from the province who got political opportunities failed to deliver for various reasons. Because of this, the chauvinist elements in our society now question the political maturity of women. Lack of education, motivation, political knowledge and male domination has played there role in blocking women’s vote.”

With the governmental efforts for ensuring women participation and the growing representation of non governmental organizations, human right activists, electronic and print media it is expected that this time the situation would get better. Due to the feudal system in Pakistani society especially in most of rural areas, the internationally accepted democratic norms are still far behind from being implemented. The fundamental cause for this lies in the fact that Pakistani society is male dominated as well as illiterate. It is also believed and propagated as an un-Islamic and immoral norm by those who back such discrimination.

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