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Introduction:
Women are half of the worlds population. They are not just fancies and show pieces of
the house. They are partners to men in every spheres of life. So the presence of women in
politics cannot be ignored. Women are part and parcel of society. They are the nerve of
the society. We cannot deny their role in the global society. We cannot imagine a body
without a heart. Similarly it is not to think a societal improvement without the
participation of the women with this view in mind our national poet quoted that the
creation of the world whatever great and beneficial for human being are shared fifty
by man and fifty percent women. Womens equal participation in political life plays a
pivotal role in the general process of the advancement of women. Without the active
participation of women and the incorporation of womens perspective at all levels of
decision-making, the goals of equality, development and peace cannot be achieved. In
Bangladesh the condition of women has improved noticeably in all spheres of life. Now
they are present in almost all profession. Women are also participating in political
activities as both the prime minister and the leader of the opposition are female. But it is
not up to the mark. It is true that now women are participating in political activities but
they play a little role in decision making process which makes them inferior than the
men. In Bangladesh, traditional gender roles keep most women from gaining political
power.
Women and politics in Bangladesh
At present, both the head of the government and leader of the opposition are woman.
However, it is a matter of honor as well as sporadic for the all other women in
Bangladesh. We have to take into account that, which percentage women in Bangladesh
are engaged in the mainstream economic and political process in our country. Without the
empowerment of women in politics, its not possible to implement the human rights of
them. In Bangladeshi politics the role of women is confined to the voting right only.
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During election, they only cast their vote on the vote centre and it seems that it is the only
responsibility of women in our politics.
Bangladesh is historically and traditionally a highly patriarchal society. All the processes,
values and institutions that are associated with the construction of the country are
gendered. The institutions and values of this gendered state always privilege masculinity.
Women in Bangladesh have to fight with gender boundaries that assign them a
subordinate position within patriarchal ideology, the essential feature of which is
domination and supremacy of men and powerlessness and invisibility of women in
almost all spheres of their lives. In Bangladesh, the existing patriarchal system reinforces
womens dependency on men, and men have strong reservations regarding women in
leadership and management positions. Patriarchal values and institutions here do not
demonstrate positive and supportive views about women leadership and nobody takes
into account the patriarchal norms and institutions which are deeply rooted in the
countrys politics. If we look at the statistics, we see that in the 1st Parliament no woman
was elected in general seats. In the 2nd Parliament there were only 2 women elected from
general seats. The scenario was the same in the 3rd to the 8th Parliaments. Though the
number of women elected in general seats in the 9th Parliament was more than that of the
previous parliaments, it is very small in comparison to the number of male
parliamentarians. The number of women MPs in the 9th Parliament is 65. It is a matter of
great regret that the women representatives filled the 50 reserved seats not through direct
elections but through nomination of the three hundred elected representatives. More
importantly, the experience of womens representation in the Bangladesh Parliament
across the years, with such a number and with such a system of election, has raised
questions about the effectiveness of womens participation in the parliamentary process.
Womens RepResentation in Political Parties
Although both the head of the two main parties are woman but the presence of women in
political party are extremely low. Lets take a look at the following chart
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Political Parties Committees Total Members Female
Members
Bangladesh
Nationalist Party
(BNP)
National Permanent Committee 14 1
National Executive Committee 164 11
Bangladesh
Awami League
Presidium and Secretariat 36 5
Executive Committee 64 5
Jatiya Party
[Ershad]
National Permanent Committee 31 2
National Executive Committee 201 6
Jamat-e-Islami
Bangladesh
Majlish-E-Shura 141 -
Majlish-E-Amla 24 -

Source: Different newspapers and The Election Commission of Bangladesh.
It is argued that men dominate the political arena; men formulate the rules of the political
game; and men define the standards for evaluation. The existence of this male-dominated
model results in either women rejecting politics altogether or rejecting male-style politics.
In Bangladesh, the political participation of women in Parliament remains profoundly
weak, and the effectiveness of their participation is even weaker. The very small presence
of women in the political party structures and in Parliament is indicative of the very low
level of their involvement in the countrys political arena as well as in the legislative
process. Though political parties in Bangladesh made commitments to womens
advancement in their respective election manifestos, in reality they nominated very few
female candidates in past elections.
Women Candidates in the parliamentary
elections
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In Bangladesh, womens participation in the electoral process has increased since 1979
and the scenarios have significantly improved in the last three parliamentary elections
(1991, 1996 and 2001) under the Care Taker Governments. Nevertheless, their
participation in electoral and legislative politics are still insignificant as it is less than 2
percent of the overall candidates and percentage of women won in the general seats never
exceeded 2 percent in the parliament elections. It is unusual that 48 percent of total voters
are women but their representation in the legislature is only 2 percent.
Although women do not hold key positions during the electoral process, they render
significant contributions during election campaigns by taking part in organizing public
meetings, processions, and rallies. Women leaders and party workers engage in the task
of mobilizing and canvassing voters, particularly women, for their party candidates. By
making special arrangements such as separate election booths for women, and females
presiding as polling officers, the turnout rate of women voters has increased. During the
general elections of 1991 and 1996, and local level elections in 1993 and 1997, the level
of enthusiasm among women to exercise their voting rights was very encouraging.
Because of the special arrangements and security measures taken by the Government,
there were few disturbances and the presence of women in polling centers was
significant.
Women Candidates contested in the parliamentary elections 2001 & 2008

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[Source: The Election Commission of Bangladesh, Islami Jatiya Oikyo Front, Unified Jatiyo
Samajtantrik Dal (JSD)]
Womens RepResentation in paRliament
The participation of women in the parliamentary elections has increased in the last three
decades. In order to ascertain womens representation in the Parliament, a special
provision had been made for 15 seats for women in the first parliament in 1973 for 10
years in addition to the 300 general seats. The number of women reserved seats had
increased up to 30 for another 15 years through another constitutional amendment in
1979. This provision was forfeited in 1987 and as a result there was no provision for
womens reserved seats in the 4
th
parliament. With the expiry of the duration in 1987, the
scope of reserved seats for the parliament was again revived through the 10
th
amendment
in 1990 for ten years, which ended in 2000. Since then the issue of reserved seat in the
parliament is not resolved. Nevertheless, a slow trend towards womens greater
participation has emerged over the decade. As party workers, women render valuable
contributions in the mobilization of voters, especially among other women. Although
there are only a few women in leadership positions, their numbers have increased over
the last two decades. There is limited female involvement in party hierarchical structures.
Women Candidates Contested in the Parliamentary Elections 1996 and 2001

Party
1996 2001
Total
Candidates
Female
Candidates
Total
Candidates
Female
Candidates
Bangladesh Nationalist Party 300 3 252 3
Bangladesh Awami League 300 4 300 10
Jatiya Party (Ershad) 300 3 281* 3*
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Jatiya Party (Manju) - - 140 3
Communist Party of Bangladesh 36 - 64 1
NAP (Mozaffar) 128 1 - -
Gono Forum 104 7 - -
JSD (E) 30 1 - -
JSD (R) 67 1 76** -
BSD (K) 31 2 37 1
Samriddhya Bangladesh Andolon 10 1 - -
Vasani Front 1 1 - -
Jatiya Janata Party 19 4 - -
Bangladesh Peoples Party 2 2 - -
Janadal 5 1 - -
Other Parties 956 - 301 9
Independent 285 5 484 7
Total 2574 36 1935 37

[Source: The Election Commission of Bangladesh. * Islami Jatiya Oikyo Front (IJOF), **
Unified Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal (JSD] )
If we take a global view, womens representation in our national parliament is not poor in
comparison with the other regions of the world. The total woman participation in the
parliament is about 16.7% in Asia, while it is about 18.6% in Bangladesh. On a regional
basis, the Nordic countries are clearly ahead. Therefore, the proportion of women in the
parliament is obviously noticeable when we compare the situation of Bangladesh with
some other countries. Statistics shows that Rwanda has done exceptionally well, having
56.3% women parliamentarians, with Sweden placed second.
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Condition of Women in Local Government
Women were first elected to local bodies in 1973. The Union Parishad Election of 1997
is a milestone in the history of political empowerment of women in Bangladesh. The
Government of Bangladesh enacted a law for direct elections to reserve seats for
women in local level elections. In 1997 through an Act, the Government reserved three
seats for women in the union parishad where women members are elected from each of
the three respective wards. Apart from the reserved seats women can also contest for
any of the general seats. Previously, the process of selection of the women
representatives was on the basis of nominations and/or indirect election. Around 12,828
women were elected as members in the 1997 local level elections. A total of 20 and
110 women were elected as chairpersons and members, respectively, for general seats.
The Government has already issued different executive orders to ensure women
members participation in various decision-making committees.
The majority of women representatives regularly attended parishad meetings, but only
a few of them participated in the deliberations and decisions. The female
representatives usually involved themselves with mass education, family planning,
immunization, handicrafts, relief activity, and shalish (mediation in the village court).
The women representatives have the potentials to become change agents for rural
women and various NGOs. A few government institutions such as the National
Institute of Local Government are training women on various development-related
issues, legal aid, and organizational structure of local bodies and their roles and
functions to enable them play their role effectively.

Obstacles faced by women in politics
It is argued that men dominate the political arena; men formulate the rules of the political
game; and men define the standards for evaluation. The existence of this male-dominated
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model results in either women rejecting politics altogether or rejecting male-style
politics. In theory, the right to stand for elections, to become a candidate, and to get
elected, is based on the right to vote. The reality is, however, that women's right to
vote remains restricted principally because the only candidates to vote for are male.
This is true not only for partial and developing democracies, but for established
democracies as well. Among the political obstacles that women face, the following
features are the dominant ones:
The prevalence of the "masculine model" of political life and of elected
governmental bodies;
The lack of party support, such as limited financial support for women
candidates; limited access to political networks; and the prevalence of double
standards;
The lack of contact and co-operation with other public organizations such
as trade unions and women's groups;
The absence of well-developed education and training systems for women's
leadership in general, and for orienting young women toward political life in
particular;
The nature of the electoral system, which may or may not be favourable
to women candidates. Nadezdha Shvedovz, Obstacles to Womans Participation
in Parliament,
Ideological and Psychological Hindrances
Ideological and psychological hindrances for women in entering parliament include
the following:
Gender ideology and cultural patterns, as well as pre-determined social roles
assigned to man and women;
Women's lack of confidence to run for elections;
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Women's perception of politics as a "dirty" game and as corrupt
The way in which women are portrayed in the mass media.
Socio-economic Obstacles
The socio-economic obstacles impacting on women's participation in parliament
could be further classified as follows:
Poverty and unemployment;

Lack of adequate financial resources;

Illiteracy and limited access to education and choice of professions;

The dual burden of domestic tasks and professional obligations.

Various factors can complicate women's entry into parliament, such as:
Women's inadequate access to and integration into political institutions as the
tailoring of many of these institutions is according to male standards and political
attitudes;
Lack of party support, including money and other resources to fund women's
campaigns and boost their political, social and economic credibility;
Women's low self-esteem and self-confidence, supported by certain cultural
patterns which do not facilitate women's access to political careers; and,
The type of electoral system as well as the lack of quota reservations. Although
the perception of corruption may not always be a fair reflection of the actual state
of affairs, it is itself having an impact on women's attitude towards a political
career. Is it a coincidence that countries with a small or moderate degree of
corruption seem to have a higher rate of women's representation in elected bodies?
According to the Transparency International Report of 2008, countries such as
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Kenya, Russia, Syria, Bangladesh and others are perceived to be one of the most
corrupt (ranked 10).

Development of women rights in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a parliament democracy, with broad powers exercised by the Prime
Minister Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, was Prime Minister until
parliaments term of office expired in mid-July. A caretaker government was installed
in accordance with constitution procedures and overview the national elections. Prime
Minister Khalada Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), came to
power in election on october1 deemed to be free and fair by international observer.
Political campaigns and the October election took place in a climate of sporadic
violence and isolated irregularities. All of the major parties have frequently boycotted
parliament while in the opposition, claiming that they had little opportunity to engage
in real debate of legislation and national issues. The higher level of the government;
however, lower judicial officers full under the executive, and are reluctant to challenge
government decisions. The official secrets Act of 1923 can protect corruption
government officials from public scrutiny, hindering the transparency and
accountability of the government at all levels.
The Home affairs ministry controls the police and paramilitary forces, which have
primary responsibility for internal security. Primarily due to the polices accountability
to the executive, police often are reluctant to pursue investigations against persons
affiliated with the ruling party. The government frequently uses the police for political
purposes. There is widespread police corruption and lack of discipline. Police officers
committed numerous serious human rights abuses and were seldom disciplined, even
for the most egregious actions.
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Bangladesh is very poor country, occasionally beset by natural disasters that further
hamper development. Annual per capita income among the population of
approximately 19.2 million is approximately $380; the economic growth rate during
the last fiscal year was approximately 6 percent. Slightly more than half of all children
are chronically malnourished. Approximately 65 percent of the work force is involved
in agriculture, which accounts for for one-fourth of the gross domestic product. The
economic is market based, but the government owns all utilities, most transport
companies, and many large manufacturing and distribution firms. Small, wealthy elite
controls much of the private economy, but there is an emerging middle class. Foreign
investment has increased significantly in the gas sector and in electrical power
generation facilities. Bangladeshs estimated over 150 million inhabitants are 90
percent Muslim. The country has a secular legal system, though on issues of
inheritance and marriage, Muslims follow Shariah law. To bring changes to the
narrow political culture, 33 percent womens representation must be ensured by any
means, said Ayesha Khanam, president of the National Womens Association, the
government will initiate a process to abolish all laws that discriminate against women
According to Sultana Kamal, a former adviser to the government and now head of the
Centre for Law and Arbitration, a legal aid non-governmental organization (NGO), the
NWDP failed to mention anything about the UN Convention on the Elimination of all
Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the uniform family code, or the equal right
of women to inherit property. Women in different religions get different shares of
properties equal in some religions and less in others. Our demand was to formulate a
uniform family code giving women equal rights. The issue was not made clear in the
policy.

Concluding Remarks
Womens participation in politics is a big issue for attaining actual democracy and
equality. It is also an issue about womens actual citizenship. It is impossible for
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women to gain power, authority, and honour through indirect election. It makes them
dependent on male members of their party. Moreover, members elected through
indirect elections cannot feel any accountability for their own election areas. Article 28
of the Constitution declares that women shall have equal rights with men in all spheres
of the state and of public life. Different NGOs and women activists raise their voice in
demanding direct election of women for the reserved seats. When women become
members of the parliament through direct elections, their decision-making power,
reputation and honour will rise automatically; they will be able to take decisions
according to their wish. We have to make a level field for women, which will make
their entrance into the countrys politics easy.
















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References:
[Bangladesh] Women in politics: What should be the focus? by Aisha
Siddika, M. Mizanur Rahman, The Daily Star, 28 November 2010]
WOMEN REPRESENTATION AT THE JATIYA SANGSAD: AN OPINION
SURVEY. JULY 2003 [Sponsored by The British Council, Dhaka,
Bangladesh.]
JOURNAL OF ASIAN WOMENS STUDIES. Vol-14, 14-12-2005,
Kitakysushu Forum in Asian women.
A SURVEY ON REPRESENTATION AND VIOLANCE AGAINST W
OMEN IN POLITICS IN BANGLADESH Conducted by HRW, 7 Circuit
House Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Tel: 9344225-6, Fax: 880-2-8315807, e-
mail: dwatch@ bangla.net www.dwatch-bd.org M ARCH 2009.
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N:B: It was not possible to provide those survey report due to the
page/print limitation...I can provide you soft copies.