Kathmandu: The preliminary data released by the Election Commission, the country’s election management body, shows that few women are contesting in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Nepal.
According to the Commission, a total of 2,526 candidates have filed their candidacies under the first-past-the-post (FPTP) category for the upcoming elections of federal and provincial parliament. Out of them, 2,291 are males while only 235 (just 10.25 percent) are females.
At the provincial level, a total of 3,476 candidates have nominated their candidacies in seven provinces of the country. However, the number of female candidates contesting the elections is extremely low. Out of 3,476 candidates, only 297 (just 8.54 percent) are female, according to the Commission.
While the majority of political parties have denied tickets to women candidates in the elections, they cannot underestimate the value of women’s votes. According to the Census 2021, the sex ratio of males per 100 females is 95.91. However, there is little parity when it comes to direct elections.
The data clearly shows that political parties are reluctant to field women candidates for elections. What may be the reason behind this?
According to sociologist Ram Bahadur Karki, who is also an associate professor at Tribhuvan University, the participation of women in politics, as we see, is just a reflection of how women are treated in society. “They have always been discriminated against by the established social order,” he said.
While the majority of political parties have denied tickets to women candidates in the elections, they cannot underestimate the value of women’s votes
“It is not only about providing seats to women in politics. We have to correct the course of the entire approach to making it fully participatory.”
“We, as a society, have not ensured the participation of women in leadership positions at grassroots organization and local level political movements,” said Karki, adding that political parties, themselves, have not encouraged women leaders to engage in political activities. As a result, women have been deprived of the opportunity for gradual growth.
He opined that political parties have to empower women for leadership positions from the grassroots levels. “Having said that, all political parties have structural flaws–which needs to be corrected for effective participation of women in leadership positions.”
According to Anjali Subedi, a commentator and freelance journalist, male-dominated political parties still think that contesting elections is their domain. There has been little or no discourse regarding participation and inclusion, she said.
She also attributes some of the financial reasons for the situation. “Politicians have established a narrative that elections cannot be won without money,” she said. “And they believe that a female candidate cannot generate money from big businesses and other nexus.”
“The overall number of candidates is one aspect. There are other sides as well,” she said. “Generally, tickets for women candidates are given in constituencies where the concerned political party is likely to lose. This situation results in the poor success rate of female candidates in winning the elections,” she further said.
Regardless of the political parties and their ideologies, politicians are ahead in making a rhetorical commitment to gender parity. They, however, never fulfill their obligation of translating their promises into action.
Female political leaders, civil society groups, and pressure groups should keep on raising the issue of ensuring gender parity in politics to put pressure on the ongoing trend in terms of political representation, she said.