Until the election Act is amended, focus on capacity building

Politics: The focus at the moment, when it comes to women in politics, will be on capacity building and creating a conducive environment for women to enhance their participation rather than introduction of a quota system.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden, who is also Bhutan’s first woman minister, said the emphasis is on “promotional activities” towards women empowerment and capacity building to boost confidence so that women can take part in politics.

Women quota, according to lyonpo Dorji Choden, doesn’t mean in terms of numbers alone, like most people perceive.

“Its beyond numbers,” she said, during the 14th meet the press session, last week, when asked about how the government would work towards enhancement of women’s participation in politics, as pledged.

“We’ll not compromise on the requirement in terms of qualification, experience and capability that are required to participate in politics,” lyonpo said. “We can give preference to women through quota for proportional representation.”

The government had pledged to look into the possibilities of establishing quota for women in the Parliament and the local government.

During the winter Parliament session, a proposal to reserve 30 percent of the 47 seats in a political party to women was proposed to be incorporated in the Election Act should it be amended.  However, the National Assembly decided not to amend the Act.

Chief Election Commissioner Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said as quota was not seen as a viable option for now, there are other means to enhance women’s participation in elections.

“The electoral laws are not against women,” Dasho Kunzang Wangdi said.

The Election Commission of Bhutan will also be taking several initiatives to enhance women participation as indicated in their study “determinants of voter’s choice and women’s participation in elective offices.”

As Bhutanese women enjoyed gender parity, the government doesn’t have to start from the scratch for women empowerment.

“We have women participating in development, business and as part of the government,” lyonpo Dorji Choden said. “With political transformation, the focus now is increasing women participation in politics both at local and national level.”

Having done several rounds of consultation with various agencies including the National Commission for Women and Children, lyonpo Dorji Choden said there is no need to rush at the moment.

“Even in western countries where democracies is old, participation of women in politics is comparatively low,” lyonpo said. “For Bhutan, we have just begun and we are not doing badly.”

Lyonpo also said that the government was looking through various angles to uplift women empowerment and building capacities and creating conducive environment is one of them. Creating conducive environment meant facilities to help women with their traditional roles like establishing childcare units that would enable women to participate in politics.

Women quota was proposed, according to lyonpo Dorji Choden, after numerous consultations.

“As quota had to come in the Election Act, we feel it’s too premature to amend the Act right now,” lyonpo said, adding that it still requires some time so that quota for women can be looked into and the Act considered for amendment.

Meanwhile, the 2013 elections witnessed a drop in women representation to 6.9 percent from 13.9 percent in 2008. It wasn’t any different in 2011 local government elections. Of the more than 1,000 seats for various posts, 165 women contested but only less than half were elected, including a lone female gup.

By Kinga Dema