For genuine democracy

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Thromde elections in the three Thromdes of Thimphu, Phuentsholing and Gelephu were successfully held as scheduled this week.

A heartening development of the elections this time is that the overall voter turnout increased by many folds as compared to the previous elections. This is a good indication; meaning that an increased number of people are taking part in the electoral process. An increased electrical participation also means good for the country’s young democracy.

Another optimistic development is that the number of women candidates, who had contested for the Thromde elections this time, increased as compared to the second Thromde elections. However, the sad part is that the number of women elected in this elections decreased as compared to the previous elections.

During the second Thromde elections in 2016, six women contested for the post of Tshogpa and all of them were elected; two each from the three Thromdes. However, this time only four women candidates were elected from the total nine; two Tshogpa candidates from Gelephu constituencies and two Tshogpa candidates from Phuentsholing constituency. And a lone woman, who contested for Thrompon’s post in Phuentsholing, garnered the least amount of votes among the four candidates.

An encouraging fact of the elections this time is about an increased women participation. Although the numbers may be negligible, it must be attributed to the concerted efforts of the women-based agencies and women’s organizations in the country, which have been working arduously to promote gender equality in politics and other areas.

However, in comparison of the country’s figures to global figures, one disappointing fact is that Bhutan is still below both the global average of 22% women in parliament and the regional average of 19.6%.

Meanwhile, the highest percentage of women in parliament in the country’s history happened in the 2018 elections, when the number of women elected to parliament in Bhutan increased from 8.3% in the 2013 elections to 15.2% in 2018 elections.

The figures, therefore, show the need of a strong and continued effort if we are to correct the inequalities that exist in politics and political leadership today.

The other challenge is how we address the gender stereotypes and biases, and beliefs and attitudes, which are so deeply entrenched in the society and are the main hindrances for the low women representation in power and leadership positions.

It’s unfortunate that there is still this notion among people that when it comes to formal decision-making, men are most suited and more capable than women. It’s unfortunate that such a perception seems to be prevalent even among the country’s women too against women wanting to participate in the electoral and political processes. Such predicament also explains why women’s representation is far less visible.

According to studies, higher numbers of women in parliament generally contribute to stronger attention to issues related to and of women and children. Women’s political participation is, therefore, a fundamental prerequisite for gender equality and genuine democracy. We can neither have one without having our women on board.