Phub Dem | Paro

Refining the action plan Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus (BWPC) drafted in 2019, members of parliament (MPs) reviewed and provided recommendations to encourage more women participation in politics and leadership roles.

MPs, who are attending a three-day BWPC workshop in Paro, recommended setting 30 percent women nominations in political parties, executive positions, constitutional bodies and judiciary.

This, they said, could address low representation of women in parliament, leadership and decision-making positions, local government and other institutions.

MPs also proposed creating awareness and advocacy programmes during constituency visits to address social, cultural, and traditional barriers that discouraged women from participating in elections.

To promote gender-responsive budgeting, MPs proposed revisiting the resource allocation formula and training MPs on gender-responsive planning and budgeting.

Considering legal barriers while implementing the recommendations, participants proposed amending some acts, such as the Election Act, Local Government Act, Marriage Act, Child Adoption Act, and Domestic Violence Prevention Act.

MPs also proposed to convert the national gender equality policy into an Act.

According to the policy, the country has adopted multiple legal and policy frameworks to provide men and women with equal rights and participation in political, social, economic, and cultural lives.  However, there is still uneven mainstreaming of gender issues across laws, policies, programmes and projects.

Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) conducted the workshop to consider the requirement of gender perspective while framing laws, policies and budget allocation.

According to BNEW’s executive director Phuntshok Chhoden, providing equal opportunity and support was translated to no gender issue or discrimination in the country. “This caused disparity.”

She said that there was equal opportunity for women to participate in elections but there were only nine elected women among 72 members. “The representation is even lesser in local government elections.”

While women in Bhutan are treated far better and are more privileged than other countries, Bhutan is ranked at the bottom on gender equality in the global ranking due to minimal representation of women in politics.

She said that, if there were improvements in women engagement and empowerment, the country would pick up in global ranking. “There’s a need for an urgent intervention as the country’s place in the global ranking is worsening by the year.”

Bhutan rank 131 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap report 2020.

She said that the workshop called for a collective approach to explore ways to address the issues, which are holding women back.

Chairperson of the Women, Children and Youth Committee of the National Assembly, Dorji Wangmo, said gender disparity in social norms and culture was caused because many people still believe women are nine times inferior to men.

“Through this workshop, MPs are expected to create awareness among the rural communities during constituency visits,” she said.

National Council member, Nima, said there was a need for gender-responsive budget allocation rather than allotting budgets to institutions directly. “We have to look into how the budget will benefit men and women specifically.”