Female voter registrations have surpassed male voters for two consecutive elections
A greater number of women have not only decided to contest in the upcoming Local Government (LG) elections this year, but they have also outnumbered the male electorates by over 10,000 voters.
Out of the 463,040 total registered voters in the country, 236,836 are women and 226,203 are men, besides 32 eligible women contesting for various posts in the upcoming LG elections.
“More women coming forward is a clear indication of women becoming more politically vocal. The political engagement of women in a country determines the position of women in the society,” an observer said.
Other senior observers that Business Bhutan interviewed were also of the opinion that although the increased participation of women in the ongoing LG elections may be tiny, however, it is a very positive development, especially towards achieving a more gender inclusive society.
Some, quoting the constitution, proclaimed how under Bhutanese law, women enjoy equal footing with men, but acknowledged their deep seeded hesitation to contest in the elections.
“Women have the right to vote in elections that concern them, their families and their societies. This goes one step further as women become more involved in the decision making process,” said Karma Drukpa, the Executive Director of the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC).
He added how women engagement and leadership in civil society and political parties are often associated with countries that are more inclusive, responsive and democratic in nature.
“One of the main reasons holding back women for so long could be that most women, irrespective of being educated or not, believe that men are better and more capable not only in terms of being leaders, but also in choosing the right candidate for them,” he explained.
A few observers, especially from the older generation, suggest that women participation in politics has been limited due to the patriarchal nature of the society where women are mostly trapped in household works and have little say in matters related to local governance or politics.
“There was no elaborate voting system in our days. Even when we voted for our village messenger, only men in the family participated, representing their whole family,” said Tashi Penjore, 74, adding that with experience, education and awareness, women can make significant contribution to the country’s young democracy.
Compared to 2016 LG elections, the number of women voters registered for the upcoming election is up by 31,717.
Trashigang has the highest number of women voters in the country with 26,338 registered with the Election Commission of Bhutan, followed by Mongar with 19,277 and Samdrup Jongkhar with 14,448.
In almost every dzongkhag, women have dominated the total voter registration except in Samtse and Tsirang.
Tshering Pelden from Thimphu