To encourage increased women participation in politics, many recommend that temporary special measures (TSMs) be put into place.
This formed a core theme of discussion during the Bhutan Women Parliamentary Caucus orientation workshop conducted by Bhutan Network for Empowering Women (BNEW) and National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC) from November 5 to 8.
In the 2018 elections women representation was only 15.3%, in 2013, 8.3% and in 2008, 13.8%.
Globally, this is a very low level of women’s political representation, putting Bhutan 136th, equal (with Egypt and Chad) out of 191 countries in the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)/UN Women annual survey of women in parliaments.
This is why many feel that the adoption of TSMs can lead to rapid improvement in the level of women representation.
TSMs have been adopted in some shape or form by 82% of countries around the world as a way to accelerate women’s political representation.
The Director for NCWC, Kunzang Lhamu said that with the current situation and scenario women are lacking behind in parliament representation and even in civil service.
“Even in economy empowerment, women are represented low. Many reports show that women lack behind in several areas,” said the NCWC Director.
The Director said that looking at this, there is a need for TSMs. “It does not mean reserving seats for women alone. It means special intervention where there is gap.”
She mentioned that proper measures should be put in place.
The Executive Director of BNEW, Phuntshok Chhoden, said that Bhutan can create temporary special measures in its own context which would facilitate and increase women participation.
“It doesn’t mean quota, thorough rigorous election process can be put in place to select the best candidates through temporary measures,” said the ED.
ED said that the measures could serve a certain time frame and after women representation improves, they can be lifted.
UNDP’s global lead on inclusive institutions and processes and trainer of the Bhutan Women Parliament Caucus (BWPC), Charles Chauvel said that more equal levels of women’s participation in parliaments is important on many levels. First, the legitimacy of parliamentary government depends on the accountability of ministers to a representative body.
He said that there are significant economic benefits to be derived from pursuing the equal representation of men and women. The World Economic Forum puts these at between US$12 and 28 trillions globally by 2025. If the world is to implement the sustainable development goals, and if Bhutan is to achieve the Comprehensive National Development Plan, by 2030, this is an economic dividend that the country simply must reap.
According to Charles, Of the 20 countries with the highest levels of women’s political representation, 17 have adopted TSMs. A well-designed TSM, accompanied by other measures to address the complex and inter-related factors that lead to lower levels of women’s representation, is a proven way to achieve a rapid short term lift the number of women in parliament.
Charles said that TSMs come in many shapes and forms. Apart from reserving seats for women in one or both houses of National Assembly and National Council – a more difficult exercise is in a jurisdiction such as Bhutan that does not use proportional representation.
He said that TSMs might include placing regulatory requirements on political parties to select more women in winnable constituencies, or encouraging political parties to do so via financial or other incentives (for example, a funding formula in election campaigns could include a greater weighting for women candidates).
In the Asia region, there are many examples of TSMs having been put in place. Bangladesh reserves 50 out of 350 seats in its parliament for women. At the panchayat level, India reserves 50% of seats for women. Mongolia enacted a 30% quota law for its parliament in 2011. The Maldives’ parliament is currently debating a decentralization law that will reserve 30% of seats at the municipal level for women candidates. And the Australian Labor Party has adopted a voluntary quota, with the result that 48% of its federal members of parliament are now women.
Charles said that by accelerating the number of women represented in parliament, a TSM can help reach the ‘critical mass’ threshold of 30% which has, at least since the early 1990s, been recognized as the minimum level of women’s parliamentary representation needed to start addressing the complex and inter-related historical factors that have combined to mean that women’s representation is lower than that of men.
“Moving to greater equality in representation is vital, and a well-designed TSM, appropriate to national culture and circumstance, is a proven short-term intervention to help achieve this,” said Charles.
Former minister and vice president of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Dasho Dorji Choden said that many other countries face same issue of low women representations.
Dasho mentioned that there are global success stories with TSMs in place; there is increase in women representation.
“If more women are to represent in parliament, some kind of measures must be put in place, not necessary the quota,” said Dasho Dorji Coden, adding that it should be done without compromising the capability.
Dasho said that the measures could be include making ways to support at the nomination level, since at the nomination level, only women are not coming forward.
The Vice president of Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Lily Wangchuk said that it is time for Bhutan to have TSMs to encourage more women participations.
She said that women do not get nominated at the grass root level because of social and cultural norms. “Political parties select winnable male candidates.”
She said that TSMs could be setting the requirement that each political party should have 30% of women nomination. “We will then have bigger number of women participation in future.”
Bhutan has international obligation and commitment to contribute towards planet fifty- fifty by 2030. This means there should be equal representation of men and women representation in all spheres. “We barely have 11 years to go and if we move at the current rate and practice it will be difficult to achieve,” she said.
Dechen Dolkar from Paro