Help The Kashmir Monitor sustain so that we continue to be editorially independent. Remember, your contributions, however small they may be, matter to us.

Getting women on negotiating table

4


By GULZAR AHMAD SOFI

The role of women in today’s world has changed significantly and it is not merely any myth that exists only in our mental framework, but women’s intellectual grandeur has its historicity in ensuring   stability, progress and long- term development of nations. Women’s presence in parliaments around the world is a reality that is impacting on the social, political and economic fabric of nations and of the world.

Yet, their access to these important legislative  structures, learning how to work within them, and the extent to which they impact on and through them, remain serious challenges. One of the positive results of BJP’s reformative peace policy and political reconstruction in the Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of semi- autonomous status, has been the representation and increased involvement of women in politics and in the public sphere.

 

This major step forward in favor of women was primarily achieved thanks to the adoption of quota system in Panchayat Raj Institutions and urban local bodies. The constitutional amendments  were  adopted by Government of India in Jammu and Kahmir Union Territory during conflict transition period and include provisions which integrate at least 33% female representation quotas in decision-making institutions. Although there was a long-term plan to extend this 33%  women reservation to the parliament and state legislature, however the bill passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 march 2008 was never voted on in the Lok Sabha. Before the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the constitution between 1957 and 2019, the 89- member Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly had 2 seats reserved for the nominated women members. Over the last two decades, the rate of women’s participation in national parliament globally has incrementally increased from 11.8 percent in 1998 to 17.8 percent in 2008 to 23.5 percent in 2018. According to a report published by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU,2017) , India ranked 149th globally in terms of representation of women in parliament, If we look in South Asian countries, India has in 2016 elections,91 seats held by women which forms 11.8 percent  in terms of representation of women in parliament which is far behind from Afghanistan’s 27.4 percent and Pakistan’s 20.6 percent. Strikingly, Pakistan has a dual system of civil and Sharia Law, the constitution of Pakistan equality between men and women (Article 25(2) states ‘’there will be no discrimination on the basis of sex” but this valid Sharia Law (chapter 3A-Federal Court).In 2000, due to cultural constraints, there was negligible female presence in political and national levels.  Women in 70th Assembly (20.6 percent) in Pakistan in the elections held in 2013 women have their presence in the assembly of counselors. In the same way, in Nepal, women reached Nepali panchayat after getting 176 seats (29.6 percent)  out of 595 in the elections held in 2013, which is the largest female representation  in the South Asian country. Similarly Elections held in the same year in Bhutan, women got 4 seats out of 47 seats in Bhutan’s parliament representing 8.5 percentage. Bangladesh in 2014,women reached the House of Nation by getting 71 seats (20.3 percent) out of 350.With the result of Sri Lanka’s 2015 parliamentary elections, women in Sri Lankan politics barely 5.8 per cent have been represented, 13 seats have been received by women in total 225 seats. And, Women represents 5.9 per cent in the 2014 assembly elections in Maldives and has gained 5 seats out of 85.Women in china ,the world’s largest population, have only about a quarter of political participation in women, which is very less according to female population.

          The seed of democracy lies in the principle that the legitimacy of the power to make decisions about people’s lives, their society and their country should derive from a choice by those who will be affected. For many centuries the basis of this legitimacy was limited and many were excluded from making a choice: slaves, those without property or formal education, those not ‘civilized’ or not part of the dominant culture or religion in society, people of colour, of a particular racial or ethnic group , indigenous people of countries conquered and annexed through superior weaponry—and overwhelmingly, women. However, in new and established democracies alike, it has become clear that universal suffrage did not in itself lead to the establishment of representative legislatures  . Overall, the proportion of women in legislatures is exceedingly low. The question is why and does it matter? Why should it matter; what differences does it make whether women are in legislatures and other institutions of governance or not? Nevertheless the rising numbers of women being elected to various political and democratic institutions, they have a long way to go to achieve gender equality in the political sphere. Unfortunately, a range of barriers- official and unofficial, formal and informal- limit women’s political participation. According to UN Women 2013, women in politics also face many types of violence in India .In countries like Pakistan and Nepal, physical violence, verbal abuse and violence, abduction and threat of murder are threatened. Women in politics has shown that inadequate implementation of laws, lack of support from police, judiciary, socio-economic divide and current power structure are the main reasons for violence. Not only this, women also have to face challenges within political parties due to being male dominated, they do not give importance to women .Political parties do not even support the political empowerment of women nor give them proper tickets. Besides this, women have to be victims of discrimination in their own family and are expected to stay only at home. In women taking part in politics , they can’t get help from their families, which is why women are not able to represent as much as they want to do in politics. Yet reversing  these discriminatory   practices in not impossible. Let us presume, if all such barriers were broken down and opportunities for strengthening women’s political participation and Decision-Making Power was created, does it really make any difference .

1-THE INVOLVEMENT OF WOMEN AT THE NEGOTIATING TABLE

Official peace processes, also known as “Track 1 Diplomacy” are processes from which women continue to be largely excluded although the number of women having held an official role during such processes particularly during peace negotiations remains 2.4 percent throughout the world. Women’s participation at the peace table leads to higher chances of successful negotiations, implemented agreements and sustainable peace. The participation of women in ‘Arusha Peace Talk’s’ in Burundi which began in june 1998 in Arusha ,Tanzania which lasted for over 2 years, resulted in the signing of the Arusha peace and Reconciliation Agreement on 28th August 2000. Similarly in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue (ICD) held in Sun City, South Africa, from 25th Feb to 12th April 2002, was designed as  national reconciliation process to negotiate the terms of a new political order. The (ICD) concluded with the signature of the Global and All-Inclusive Agreement on 17th December 2002 in pretoria , South Africa which allowed the appointment of an Interim government in june 2003. Women gathered together to develop and adopt a common programme for peace agreements which integrated gender equality principles. Evidence shows that companies, countries, and peace agreements fare better when there are more women involved.

STRENGTHENING WOMEN’S POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND DECISION- MAKINK POWER; 

 Women in positions of authority tend to resolve crises without resorting to violence, advocate for social issues that benefit all, and allocate bigger budgets to issues like health and education. Inclusion of women corresponds to reduced armed violence and conflict management. During Libyan revolution and   50 yearlong uprising of Jammu and Kashmir, women have spearheaded education, media and political initiatives through multisector reform. The Global study illustrated that women are invaluable resources whose participation enhances humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and economic recovery. Often, they are viewed as less threatening then men- politically , socially and economically which brings great advantage in community relations. Women  are also the best detectors of radicalization in their families and communities and can act rapidly to counter it.

MORE WOMEN INTO POLITICS, LEADERSHIP AND QOUTAS;

Its important to recognize that gender parity can’t be reached overnight and needs coordinated efforts by cooperating with political and social leaders to overcome culturally shaped mindsets that span generations. To date, men dominate decision- making tables, formulating policies that directly impact society, whereas women comprise less than 20% of seats in national parliaments. While mandating quotas on leadership boards and advisory councils is important\, these are just one part of the fix and do not at all qualify as a solution on their own. Representation in numbers is huge, but if there is no will to allow women meaningfully adjudicate when they get on the table, then the quota is essentially meaningless. Male and female legislatures must work together in order to solve the myriad of problems in their countries. In order to meet worldwide developments goals and build strong, sustainable democracies, women must be encouraged, empowered and supported in becoming strong political and community leaders. Our journey will be long, but if we remain ambitious, deliberate and strategic, we will make strides in the right direction.

(The author, a journalist, can be reached at: [email protected])