Poor women representation in parliament

he newly formed National Council (NC), elected through a poll on April 20, will have only one woman in the 25-member upper chamber of the parliament. The result was particularly surprising because women voters outnumbered men in the election. Two other female members were appointed by the king.

The NC consists of 20 members directly elected by people from 20 districts and five members appointed by the King. According to the Constitution of Bhutan, besides its legislative functions, the NC shall act as the House of Review on matters affecting the security and sovereignty of the country and the interests of the nation and the people that need to be brought to the notice of the King, the Prime Minister, and the National Assembly.

Out of 265,441 Bhutanese who voted in the election, 134,805 were women and 130,636 were men. A total of only five women from four districts, namely Mongar, Sarpang, Punakha and Zhemgang, contested the election. Even in these four districts where women candidates competed against men, there were more female eligible voters.

Tshering Tshomo, 39, who is a former teacher, is the lone candidate to be elected from the central district of Zhemgang, one of the poorest districts in the country.

In the first election held in 2008, out of six contestants, only four were elected. In the 2013 election, four women contested, but none were elected. In the 2018 election, out of the four women who contested, only two were elected.

Lamenting the poor electoral success of women, a newspaper writes, ‘However, logic, as always, fails to come to terms with reality when we know that more than 55 per cent of our electorates are women.’ Moreover, commentators say very few women are appointed in decision-making positions, which subsequently creates a vicious cycle whereby women themselves do not believe in women leaders.

The men in leadership have repeatedly ruled out the possibility of having a quota system in the laws to ascertain women in parliament.

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