The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has released statistics of the final electoral rolls 2020. While the overall voters have increased, the gender gap in voters, as the document shows, is also significant. Only nine districts, including Lahore, account for a gap of over 3 million between male and female voters. The overall difference between male and female voters across the country is 12.41 million. Indeed, the difference in gender gap has shown a slight improvement from the earlier counts when it stood at 12.72m.

Nevertheless, such a minor improvement means nothing. The gap between the two sets of voters shows that the dream of making elections more inclusive cannot be accomplished until and unless equal opportunities are offered to all sections of the society to take part in the voting process. Universal franchise on principle entails bringing the maximum number of voters into the fold to allow for a more accurate depiction of what the public truly wants.

Perhaps the ECP knows it better than anyone else that the lack of women participation in the electoral process is amongst the most crucial challenges it needs to address. Considering the gender divide in an urban centre like Lahore, which is more than half a million, one can well imagine the situation in rural areas. Both the government and the ECP need to narrow down the bridge further. They must identify the barriers that bar the women from getting registered as potential voters.

Failing to enlist more women on the electoral list means bridging the gender divide is left unaddressed. Then all other efforts to enhance women participation in the electoral process mean little. The Chief Election Commissioner must direct the electoral wings of the commission to identify areas with a massive chasm between male and female voters. Conducting multiple voting registration processes in such locations is the way forward to tackle the issue of the gender gap.