Although the Bangladesh parliament has 50 reserved seats for women, a significant number of women candidates are trying to get nomination to contest directly in the 11th parliamentary election from different political parties. Many female candidates, alongside male candidates, have submitted nomination forms to get party ticket.
Nomination seekers say the time has come for the political parties to nominate eligible women candidate though the parliament has 50 women’s reserved seats.
The provision of reserved seats for women was introduced in the first parliament in 1973, with 15 seats reserved for women in addition to the 300 general seats. The number was later raised to 50 gradually.
Later in July this year, the 17th amendment to the Constitution was approved in parliament with a provision to extend the tenure of the 50 reserved seats for women for 25 more years.
Among several hundred women, experienced politicians including Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Begum Matia Chowdhury, Sahara Khatun, Sagufta Yasmin, Simin Hossain Rimi, Dipu Moni and Meher Afroz Chumki, as well as several cinema and drama stars and businesswomen, have appeared in the nomination race.
Popular star of Bengali films Sarah Begum Kabri, small screen stars including Tarana Halim, Jyotika Jyoti, Aruna Biswas, Rokeya Prachi, Shomi Kaiser and Tarin, singers Momtaz, Kanakchapa and Baby Naznin came to the limelight, according to media reports.
Popular model turned actress Mou was also seen campaign for Awami League. Women Entrepreneur Selima Ahmed, Associate Professor of Open University Arifa Rahman Ruma and some others have submitted nomination forms too.
Nasima Akter Kalpana, wife of late BNP leader Nasiruddin Ahmed Pintu, is preparing to hold elections from Dhaka-7 constituency. Former commissioner of Dhaka City Corporation Ferdous Ahmed Sweeto, and vice-president of Dhaka North BNP, is also likely to contest from Dhaka-14 constituency. BNP organizing secretary Shama Obaid, former minister Barrister Akter Uddin Ahmed’s daughter Zeba Ahmed Khan, BNP organizing secretary Bilkis Jahan Shirin, JSAS vice-president Shahriya Islam Shaila, wife of missing Ilias Ali Tahsina Rushdie Luna, Farhat Qader Chowdhury, wife of war criminal Salauddin Quader Chowdhury, Barrister Sakila Farzana, Ismat Ara Sadek, Mahbub Ara Begum, Joya Sengupta, Syeda Saira Mohsin, Faridunnahar Laily, Marufa Akhter Poppy, Sabina Akhter Tuhin and names of several other women from various political parties are coming round the corner.
However, the number of women directly elected has been painfully low, ie from 0.7 per cent in 1979 in the second parliament to a maximum of 6.3 per cent in 2014 in the tenth parliament. The ninth and the tenth parliament registered a progress from 4.8 per cent in 1973 in the first parliament to 18.55 per cent and 20 per cent women in reserved plus general seats respectively. This is less than 30 per cent recognised as the critical mass for change in the parliament.
If we look at the statistics, we see that in the 1st Parliament no woman was elected in general seats. In the 2nd Parliament there were only 2 women elected from general seats. The scenario was the same in the 3rd to the 8th Parliaments. Though the number of women elected in general seats in the 9th Parliament was more than that of the previous parliaments, it is very small in comparison to the number of male parliamentarians.
The reserved seat MPs are not accountable to any constituencies like the elected MPs are, and they do not have a direct role in policy-making and legislative processes.
Therefore, women politicians are becoming more interested to contest the general election against male candidates.
If we take a global view, women’s representation in our national parliament is not poor in comparison with the other regions of the world. The total woman participation in the parliament is about 16.7% in Asia, while it is about 18.6% in Bangladesh. On a regional basis, the Nordic countries are clearly ahead. So, the proportion of women in the parliament is obviously noticeable when we compare the situation of Bangladesh with some other countries. Statistics shows that Rwanda has done exceptionally well, having 56.3% women parliamentarians, with Sweden placed second.
Let’s see how many of the women come success in the 11th parliamentary election race.