Giving women a fairer share in politics

Dhaka,  Thu,  27 July 2017
Published : 17 Mar 2017, 19:54:46
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Giving women a fairer share in politics

Md. Mahbubur Rahman
'This is Ladyland, free from sin and harm. Virtue herself reigns here.' It is mentioned in the Sultana's Dream, a text by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, the pioneer feminist writer and activist of Bengal in British India. This self explanatory statement of Rokeya infers the need of women's political empowerment to counter terrorism. Against the backdrop, this critique explores the relationship between women's political empowerment and counter-terrorism in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has been led by two women prime ministers almost over the last three decades. But women's political empowerment in true sense is yet to be achieved. This observation is based on the ratio of women politicians to their male counterparts in local government institutions and political parties at the grassroots levels. It has been noticed that male politicians at the grassroots level believe that they are more capable than women politicians in dealing with political issues. They believe so because they possess the muscles power. Due to this mindset and the muscles power, male politicians in the country frequently violate the gender norms. Since our politics is dominated by the use of muscles power and since the male politicians are habituated to flex their muscles, women politicians at the grassroots level can hardly draw the attention of the decision-makers of their respective political parties.

The existing laws and policies of the country have failed to address the issue of muscle-flexing, a major challenge to women's empowerment in Bangladesh's politics, which primarily hampers the gender balance in politics and finally gives birth to terrorism. Let's see how this is happening.

The Articles 10, 11, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 65 of the Constitution of Bangladesh are most relevant to the question of gender equality in politics. The Article 29 (3) reads: The state shall not be 'prevented from making special provision in favour of any backward section of citizens for the purpose of securing their adequate representation in the service of the Republic.' In the light of this provision, the system of indirect election to the reserved seats in the Parliament was introduced (Article 65, Clause 3) in order to bring more women into politics and minimise the gender gap in the political life.

These laws and policy pay an insufficient attention to the obstacles women face trying to enter the field of politics. The laws do not criticise or suggest actions to stop the trends of muscle-flexing in Bangladesh's politics. This trend throws two challenges to the greater section of female politicians in the country, especially who are working in the local government institutions, and who believe in equality and fair politics, and therefore never try to wield muscles power. The first challenge is that the political dependence on physical might puts the women politicians in a less demanding position in their respective political parties, because due to the polluted political environment. The second challenge is the political dependence on the use of muscles power poses a threat to the lives and security of the women politicians when they try to confront the political vice. This is not only driving women in general out of Bangladesh's politics at the grassroots level but also ruining the entire political system by encouraging muscle-flexing. Therefore, in order to fight this vice all political parties in Bangladesh must join hands together to stop using muscles power in politics and ensure women's political empowerment in the country, in its true sense.

The writer is a Political Science researcher at the University of Dhaka.) Email: mahbub713@gmail.com
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