Women voters

Women constitute almost half the total population on the globe. So women voting is as important as male voting in every society for a truly representative political system.
Every civilized society encourages women to take part in active politics and share their wisdom and choice in electing a government. As far as elections in Pakistan are concerned, casting vote by female members of a family, belonging particularly to tribal and rural social setups, is not seen as healthy by feudal mindset.
The restrictions on women casting their vote have been witnessed in the electoral history of Pakistan in several past elections due to internal party-based pacts and pledges among the contesting candidates particularly in tribal northern areas of the country. This has long resulted in a disappointing ratio of women participation in elections in such areas.
To solve this deeply concerning issue, the parliament, on recommendations of the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms suggested inducting Section 9 (1) of Elections Act, 2017, which empowers Election Commission to declare an entire election null and void if women votes polled /cast are fewer than ten per cent.
After promulgation of this law, the practice of barring women from casting votes through internal enshrouded agreements seems to have drastically dropped off.
Although national voter turnout decreased altogether marginally from 53.62% in 2013 to 51.99% in General Election 2018 (GE-2018), in Pakistan ‘percentage-wise’, 8.45 million more voters turned out to cast their votes in GE 2018 actually.
Moreover, women voter turnout segregation stood at 40 per cent of total registered voters in General Elections 2018, a sharp increase compared to General Elections of 2013. This trend indicates a civic responsibility and unflinching commitment and interest of Pakistani women in exercising their right to choose their government representatives.
The remarkable growth in women registered voters for GE-2018 and women participation in elections may be explained by a heightened emphasis on voter registration following the enactment of Elections Act, 2017 of which Sections 12(c), 47 and 48 require the Election Commission of Pakistan to facilitate maximum voter enrolment, especially that of women.
ECP’s Gender and Disability Group, District Voter Education Committees (DVECs) and synergies with civil society were among the key factors in augmenting the GE-2018 electoral rolls and proved a motivational factor in bringing our women out to the polling stations on poll day. The women voters participation in recently held elections in Gilgit Baltistan is encouraging.
The extraordinary zeal and fervour shown by Election Commission and its field offices in motivating general masses particularly women voters and marginalized groups such as persons with disabilities for participating in the electoral process of country need to be acknowledged and appreciated.
ZAHEER SAHITO,
Khairpur.

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