Women in Politics: Parties get another nine years to ensure 33pc representation
Political parties of the country are likely to get another nine years to keep at least 33 percent positions of all committee at local and national levels reserved for women as all the major parties failed to ensure it before the deadline.
The Election Commission in 2008 gave a deadline of 12 years to the political parties to ensure women's representation. The move was taken to encourage and ensure more participation of women in politics.
The deadline ended last year, but the parties failed to implement the directive. Now, the EC has raised the time-frame till 2030.
In a draft law titled "Registration of Political Parties Act-2020", it proposed that all political parties should keep 33 percent positions for women by 2030 and they will now need to report to the EC about fulfilling the reservations annually.
Although the EC is still in the dark as to which parties have or haven't met the deadline, it is also going to send letters to all the 39 registered political parties, asking them about the progress in achieving the target of 33 percent women representatives by 2020.
"This is our proposal, that the political parties can be given another 10 years to ensure 33 percent women representatives at parties," Election Commissioner Rafiqul Islam told The Daily Star.
He said they made the proposal as there were discussions about increasing the deadline.
EC Deputy Secretary Abdul Halim Khan said they will send the draft of the law to the law ministry soon.
Reserving at least 33 percent of all committee positions, including that of the central committee, for women by 2020 is a pre-requisite for any political party's registration with the EC in line with the Representation of the People Order, 1972.
This target came about following an amendment to incorporate this provision into the RPO in 2008, and failure to meet this means the EC can cancel registration of a political party, according to EC officials.
The EC prepared the draft of "Registration of Political Parties Act-2020", repealing the chapter VIA of the Representation of the People Order-1972 that now deals with the process of registration of political parties.
EC decided to write the law in Bangla in place of the RPO's English to make it easy to read and understand, EC officials said.
In a draft prepared in June 2020, EC did not incorporate any deadline for reserving 33 percent women positions at political parties leadership. But it said besides keeping 33 percent positions for women, political parties will need to report to the EC about fulfilling the reservations annually.
"During the amendment of RPO 2008, there were no direction on political parties about giving report to the EC about fulfilling the reservations," said an EC official.
"As result of that EC cannot oversee properly which parties have or haven't met the deadline. If they report annually, it would help us to monitor the progress," the official added.
According to party insiders, 19 out of the ruling Awami League's 74-member central committee are women (26 percent); seven posts are also empty as of now.
Contacted recently, Awami League Presidium Member Piyush Kanti Bhattacharya said the party is a women-centric party and already has many women leaders and activists.
"We should fulfill the requirement, we will take more initiatives to ensure this 33 percent," he said.
In the case of BNP, women constitute 11 percent of the party's 73-member advisory body, with only eight women.
BNP Standing Committee Member Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said they are well aware of the requirement and are also concerned.
"We have discussed the issue in the party's standing committee meeting. We have decided to ensure 33 percent of women in all the committees and we are working on it," he added.
Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) has around 15 percent of women in their central committee. Among other parties, Jatiya Party (Manju) has 16 women in its core committee of 101 members (15.8 percent) and around 11 percent of the Workers Party of Bangladesh's central committee constitute women.
Three months after the political parties failed to meet the deadline of 2020, the commission had no specific information on how many women leaders there are in the central and other committees of the political parties.
Against this backdrop, a commission meeting, held on April 1, decided that it would send letters to all the registered political parties, asking them about the progress in achieving the target of 33 percent women representatives by 2020.
Halim said they will send the letter to the all registered political parties soon.