How To Close The Gender Gap? Get Political

“All men are born equal.” There is no doubt that this ideal should include women. However, since time immemorial, women from all walks of life have been subjected to patriarchal attitudes. Throughout history, women have persistently been treated as inferior, and as a result, there has been a need to put in place special measures to try and achieve gender parity. In my opinion, none of these measures to bring about gender equality have borne fruit, and instead they leave women exposed to a permanent stigma.

Significant steps that have been taken nationally and internationally include the emancipation and economic empowerment of women, gender-based budgeting, reserved quotas for women in representative institutions, affirmative action quotas in services, and financial incentives for girls attending school, to name a few. Despite all these efforts, women still continue to be either excluded or included only nominally in decision-making, particularly at higher and significant levels. This is true of the public sector as well as for the private sector.

Democracy should mean representation. Various elected institutions in many countries ensure representation of disadvantaged groups, technocrats and women, yet all such groups continue to be a negligible and ineffective minority in such institutions. To ensure the political participation of women, various countries have reserved quotas in national and provincial assemblies –  the range varies from 5% to 30% across the globe. Some people have said that this is mostly meaningless because these female representatives are discriminated against in the elected bodies that they represent. A real representative is one who has the backing of the majority of voters in a specific constituency. In all cases where women are indirectly elected, they are also dependent on the political party nominating them.

My proposal is that women be given representation that is proportionate to the population they constitute. We should set aside a certain number of seats for women, based on and proportionate to the percentage of women in the population of the country in question. Such a rule would force political parties to award seats to women. I am not suggesting that women should only vote for other women, but I do believe the number of women representatives should proportionally reflect the number of women in any given population. This statistical enhancement alone would bring about a radical change in the political participation of women and empower them in a real sense.

Previously published as part of a digital campaign for the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014.

Anoosha Shaigan

Author: Anoosha Shaigan

The writer is a human rights and technology lawyer with an LLM degree in Tech, Media & Telecom Law from Queen Mary UK. She is a High Court Advocate and certified Legislative Drafter, working on legal and political reforms in human rights, international law, gender justice and legal innovation for over 12 years. She serves as the VP and Editor of Courting The Law, Pakistan’s first legal news and analysis portal with various initiatives that leverage technology to improve access to justice. She also serves as VC of the Legal Informatics Committee at Lahore High Court Bar Association, Asia’s oldest and biggest bar. She has worked with various government ministries and international organizations and was also elected on the Governance and Accountability Council of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. She has authored the Legislative Brief on Right To Information law for Parliament and has also been nominated as a Young Political Leader by the US Department of State, having served as the Honorary Deputy Secretary of State in Indiana during the US Presidential Election in 2016.