The scene at the facilitation booth at the Phuentsholing Middle Secondary School yesterday could provide a peek into why Bhutan’s elections see more women voters than men.
Expecting mothers, mother with child, some sleeping while standing in line with their mothers not bothered by the push and shove and the hot sun as they waited for their turn to cast their vote at the booth. There were 1,120 women.
Some women had come as early as 9am and waited until 3pm with their children at the facilitation booth. A total of 3,206 women have registered to vote from Phuentsholing facilitation booth.
Few pregnant women also had waited in the queue, unaware of the preference they would get to vote first. As the security did not notice these women in the long queue, they were not allowed to come first.
A seven months old pregnant woman, a corporate employee said her request to get priority to vote early was denied at the entry to the voting hall. “My legs are hurting,” she said, adding it was too tiring for her.
The corporate employee said that she had expected pregnant women and mothers with young children at the facilitation booth would get preferences. Special preferences for such people would help a lot, she added.
Failing to convince the security in the crowd, she left to return later. In her absence, two pregnant women were given the preference to vote.
Election officials said that pregnant women were given preference to vote first as and when they came to vote. There were no problems, they said.
Dorji Choden, 28, had come with her two-years-old daughter at 10am, without having breakfast. At 2:20pm, she had still not cast her vote because her child had slept mid-way. She then took her child to a shed below a school building and waited for her husband to arrive.
“I am hungry but I have to wait,” she said. “I was even told to come tomorrow by a security personnel.” Dorji Choden said she was voting for the first time.
Another woman, Denma, said she had come at 9:30am. At 2:40pm, the woman had still not voted and come to rest in a shed nearby. “It is very tiring,” she said.
Denma said she preferred voting on Friday and not on Saturday and Sunday when office goers would turn out in numbers. Compared with going to her village in Samdrupjongkhar to cast her vote, she said facilitation booth was a better option.
Meanwhile, men went to Phuentsholing Lower Secondary School to caste their votes. A total of 779 men voted from the facilitation booth yesterday. A total of 2,781 men have registered to vote from the Phuentsholing facilitation booth.
driver, Sangay Wangdi, 40, from Merak- Sakteng, Trashigang said facilitation booth helped save money. “I went to my village in 2013,” he said.
Tenzin, a businessman claimed he was among the people who requested for facilitation booth after 2013 elections. “Some people who went to vote in the last elections met with accidents,” he said.
Tenzin explained that couples from different places would have to spend large amounts to travel to their respective villages. “Some then gets discouraged to exercise the voting rights,” he said.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing