Sindh: Reduction of Women’s Seats in Local Bodies Causes Concern.
A drastic reduction of women’s representation in local bodies under the Local Government
Acts recently passed by Punjab and Sindh governments, has been a cause of disappointment for Pakistani Civil Society.
Below is an article published by The News
Civil society has expressed disappointment over the drastic reduction of women’s representation in local bodies under the Local Government Acts recently passed by Punjab and Sindh governments.
The representation of women has been reduced to one out of 9 in the directly elected first tier of Local Government in Sindh and two out of 13 in Punjab which is a stark reduction from a robust 33 per cent in previous local governments. At other tiers Sindh Law provides for 22 per cent indirectly elected seats for women and the Punjab law sets numbers (and not percentages) which may translate in some districts at less than 10 per cent of total membership.
Civil society organisations, former Parliamentarians and women rights activists were speaking at a meeting convened by National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) on Tuesday. The Commission organised meeting with key stake holders to discuss NCSW’s position on women’s representation in local government and deliberate upon the Local Government laws as enacted in Punjab and Sindh and as proposed in KP and Balochistan.
Participants of the meeting expressed grave concern and disappointment with the LG Acts in Punjab and Sindh whereby women’s representation has suffered a major set-back but welcomed the proposed 33 per cent women’s seats in the KP and Balochistan draft bills. They urged that these must be retained.
Stressing their support of party-based elections at all levels and the principle of authority of elected councillors in decision making, participants strongly recommended, they demanded 33 per cent reserved seats for women at all levels, 5 per cent quota for women in reserved seats for farmers, workers, non-Muslims, direct elections for women on all reserved seats.
They suggested that women elected on reserved seats should be eligible for positions of nazims/naib nazims (or equivalent positions) and LG elections in FATA and ICT need to ensure same levels of women’s representation as indicated above. They demanded incorporation of all these demands in Local Bodies Acts passed by federal and provincial government before the local bodies elections.
The meeting endorsed the NCSW position issued on July 31 and reiterated that Constitutional provisions defining the parameters and spirit of democratically elected local government be strictly adhered to i.e. Article 32 (The State shall encourage local Government institutions composed of elected representatives of the areas concerned and in such institutions special representation will be given to peasants, workers and women) and Article 140-A (Each Province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.)
The meeting recalled that the consensus on women’s representation was established as far back as 1998 when all provincial assemblies passed resolutions for 33 per cent reserved seats for women in all tiers of local government. Participants were at a loss to understand why that consensus had been broken.
Eminent human rights activist Tahira Abdullah pointed out that the discrimination in development fund distribution among man and women office bearers should also be addressed in the Acts. She suggested 33 per cent funds should be reserved for women related initiatives in the local bodies.
Chief Operating Officer Aurat Foundation Naeem Mirza expressed concern over the merger of Ministry of Human Rights in the Ministry of Law. Highlighting another weakness in the Local Bodies Acts, he said these laws make citizen’s representatives subservient to the bureaucracy.
Human rights activist Farzana Bari stressed the need to initiative public movement against the under representation of women in provincial laws. She said any reduction in the representation of women in local bodies would be a compromise on the basic principles of democracy.
The meeting resolved to take forward the recommendations. Chairperson NCSW Khawar Mumtaz said that the NCSW would take up the issue with competent authorities in provinces and with parliamentarians.