Strug­gling Fe­male Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans

Why is fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the par­lia­ment such a press­ing is­sue in Afghanistan?

Southasia - - REGION AFGHANISTAN - By Ha­dia Ma­jid

no con­cept of women’s rep­re­sen­ta­tion or par­tic­i­pa­tion in pol­i­tics. But the con­di­tion of Afghan women has con­sid­er­ably im­proved af­ter the col­lapse of the Tal­iban regime. Now, nearly three mil­lion girls at­tend school and ma­ter­nal and in­fant mor­tal­ity rates have also de­clined.

Yet, even to­day, sig­nif­i­cant gen­der gaps ex­ist in al­most all so­cial and de­vel­op­ment ar­eas. For in­stance, in 2012 the per­cent­age of pop­u­la­tion with at least sec­ondary level of ed­u­ca­tion was 5.8 for women and 34 for men while the em­ploy­ment rate was 15.7 per­cent for women and 80.3 per­cent for men. In 2012, the ma­ter­nal mor­tal­ity ra­tio in Afghanistan was 460 per 100,000 live births while the av­er­age cor­re­spond­ing fig­ure for South Asia was 203. for women in the up­per and lower houses of the par­lia­ment in 2012. How­ever, fur­ther leg­is­la­tion re­sulted in the re­moval of the elec­toral quota law. This de­ci­sion re­ceived harsh crit­i­cism and was later re­called as a re­sult of ef­forts by fe­male leg­is­la­tors.

The fi­nal ver­sion of the bill re­duced the pro­vin­cial quota to 20 per­cent. Even this was met by strong protests by women’s rights groups and the me­dia. Yet, de­spite the re­duced quota, Afghanistan’s ra­tio of women rep­re­sen­ta­tion in par­lia­ment stays above the South Asian av­er­age of 18.5 per­cent.

Why is fe­male rep­re­sen­ta­tion in par­lia­ment such a press­ing is­sue in the Afghan con­text?

A 2012 sur­vey con­ducted by the Au­rat Foun­da­tion, an NGO that cam­paign­ing for women’s rights since the col­lapse of the Tal­iban regime. In­ter­na­tional groups such as Amnesty In­ter­na­tional have pro­vided ex­ten­sive guide­lines about how to en­gage in ef­fec­tive ac­tivism to pro­mote women’s rights.

In 2012, the 112th Congress of the United States in­tro­duced the Afghan Women and Girls Se­cu­rity Pro­mo­tion Act which re­quired the “Depart­ment of De­fense to de­velop a strat­egy to pro­mote the se­cu­rity of Afghan women and girls dur­ing the se­cu­rity tran­si­tion process”. Sadly, the bill was never en­acted.

As in­volve­ment of the Tal­iban in Afghan pol­i­tics grows, at­tacks on girl’s schools as well as tar­get­ing of fe­male lead­ers and politi­cians has in­creased. To­day, a mem­ber of the Afghan

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