Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu — Despite counting more in numbers, women voters abstained from voting in Sarpang for various reasons, data on voting patterns in the dzongkhag reveal. 

In the recently concluded General Elections, 6,639 females voted from a total of 10,291 registered female voters in the Gelephu constituency. Of the 20,389 voters in the constituency, male voters count slightly less at 10,098, of which, 6,699 voted in the recent election.

Shompangkha constituency showed a similar pattern. Despite having more female voters standing at 7,377, the constituency recorded only 5,229 female voter turnouts. It was 190 female voters less than the 5,419 male voter turnouts among the 7,360 eligible male voters.

In addition, it was also observed that the 45 common forums across the two constituencies had significantly less female participation, recording 820 female attendants  to 1,122 males attending.

It was observed that men exhibited a higher level of interest in politics, about parties, candidates, and their pledges than their female counterparts, according to dzongkhag election officials. 

“It can be inferred that men are generally more cognizant of political developments, while women, perhaps due to engagement in household chores or a lack of attendance habits, participated less frequently in meetings,” said the official.

The officials also observed that women displayed reduced interest in political discussions and public debates, and exhibited lower awareness of the electoral processes.

This disparity had been attributed to the notion and assumption that female voters were primarily engaged in domestic responsibilities, resulting in men taking on the role of decision-makers at home.

Furthermore, officials said that men were recognised as influential community members due to their wider network of acquaintances, enabling easier access to information.

In another instance, which did see more women coming out to vote was when the polling stations were closer to their place of residence, and when it was located in urban places.

A resident of Umling, Norbu Lhamo, said that balancing household duties with active political involvement could be challenging for many women. She added that the lack of transportation and long walking distances would also limit their access, especially making it difficult for breastfeeding mothers to participate in the electoral process.

Sonam Lhamo from Serzhong, said that the under-representation of women in political leadership could also impact women’s participation in elections. On the other hand, she said, “Many women voters are not supporting female candidates.”

During the common forums for the primary round of elections, Gelephu witnessed 1,175 turnouts, with 621 males and 554 females. Shompangkha recorded 501 male attendees and 266 female attendees.

The number of registered voters in Sarpang has shown a consistent increase over the years, starting at 21,003 voters during the first democratic parliamentary election in 2008 and reaching 35,126 voters in the general election for the 2023-2024 parliamentary election.