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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 700, 18 December 2023

Electoral Gender Gap at the lowest in the last decade, says Dawn



According to the latest statistics by the ECP, the difference between men and women in voting is 10 million in the country

Vetriselvi Baskaran

On 18 December, Dawn issued a report on “Electoral gender gap falls below 10m after a decade,” analyzing the positive development of decreased gender disparity among registered voters in Pakistan. According to the Op-ed, Pakistan's Gender Gap in terms of voter’s participation narrowed down for the first time in decades. The gender disparity among registered voters in Pakistan has shrunk to less than 10 million for the first time in ten years. Women participation has exceeded to 128 million. Punjab contributes the most to the aggregate, followed by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan. Interestingly, six of the districts in Punjab have more than 48per cent female voters, whereas Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has eight districts with fewer than 45per cent female participation. In Punjab, districts like Lahore, Faisalabad, and Gujranwala exhibit a larger gap, whilst Chakwal, Talagang, and Jhelum have the largest proportion of female voters in the province. Notably, male and female voter numbers varied by 10per cent in 20 of Balochistan's 35 districts. In eight districts in Sindh, the gender difference between male and female voters exceeds 100,000. Female voter turnout is especially low in Keamari, Karachi West, and Malir. Khairpur, Matiari, and Umer Kot, on the other hand, have more than 47per cent female participation. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reflects the country's pattern, with Peshawar and South Waziristan experiencing considerable gender disparities. However, Haripur and Kohistan offer hope with over 47 per cent of female voters. This positive shift reflects continuous efforts to bridge the gender gap in Pakistan's electoral system. While the journey towards equality continues, this remarkable decrease marks a significant milestone in expanding women's political participation.
  
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in the Gender gap
The gender gap amongst registered voters began to widen following the 2002 elections and peaked at the time of the 2013 elections. Several initiatives were made by the Election Commission of Pakistan, to further the cause where they initiated for international donors, and civil society to stop the bleeding. Effective advocacy before the 2013 election led to the production of gender-based voter figures broken down by district to identify the districts with the highest gender gap. These districts were then targeted for providing Computerised National Identity Cards (CNICs).
 National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) provided mobile vans that relieved women in rural and distant locations from having to travel to Nadra offices, aiding requisite documentation for CNIC, a necessity for voters that can consume up to a whole day to complete otherwise. The ECP started counting votes cast by women from the 2013 general election to provide an idea of women voters at each polling constituency, province and country. The results show where the least women voter turnout and paved the way to awareness.

The trend of Women’s political participation
According to the latest statistics by the ECP, the difference between men and women in voting is 10 million in the country. The reason behind this is more than 21 million voters have been added since the last general elections. The number of women participating increased from 46.73 million in 2018 to 58.47 at present. While registration is a positive step, it doesn't guarantee turnout. Cultural barriers and past instances of women being barred from voting in this province may dampen their motivation.
Women prioritize "purchasing power" as the main issue facing Pakistan, with 50 per cent of women in Punjab highlighting it compared to 37 per cent of men. This likely reflects their role in managing household budgets and being directly impacted by rising prices. Women are actively participating in politics in Pakistan, pushing established norms and carving out a place for themselves in decision-making processes. Quotas and reserved seats, increased voter turnout, and more female candidates are some of the rising variables that are contributing to the good trend. Women's political participation is more than just filling seats; it also brings new ideas and priorities to the table. Their presence will promote
gender equality, improve governance, and challenge patriarchy. 

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