The International Women’s Day is being celebrated in Nepal and all around the world with positive messages about women rights and empowerment. In this article, we take a look at the representation of women in the constituent assembly (CA) elections in Nepal. The first CA election took place in 2008 and the second one in 2013.
Although the Nepali government claims to be inclusive, it is very difficult for females to get directly elected during elections. This is evident from the results of candidates elected under the First Past The Post (FPTP) during both 2008 and 2013 Constituent Assembly (CA) polls in Nepal. A first-past-the-post (FPTPP), or winner-takes-all is an election system in which candidates are directly elected by voters and a candidate receiving more votes than any others is declared the winner.
Summary of CA Members Elected Under FPTP in 2008 and 2013 Polls
In 2008, only 13% of members elected via FPTP system were women. In 2013, it was even worse. Only 4.17% of members elected via FPTP system were women. The notion of gender equality took a regressive path from 2008 to 2013.
2008 CA Poll Results – FPTP
When it comes to gender equality and women empowerment, Maoists would put rest of the political parties to shame, given the number of directly elected females during 2008 CA polls. Of the 30 female CA members elected under the FPTP, 24 (80%) were Maoists. The rest of the 54 parties managed to get only 6 females directly elected during the same election.
Does Proportional Representation Matter?
2008 CA elections are touted as one of the most inclusive elections in Nepal’s history since 33% of the total CA members were women. This may sound unbelievable given the fact that only 13% of the FPTP elected members were women. The magical 33% number was made possible because out of 335 proportional representation seats, 161 seats, a whopping 48% were allocated to women. If there were no proportional representation system during elections, women and minorities would not get a fair chance of representation.
In 2008, 161 (48%) of the proportional seats were allocated to women. This is in start contrast to 30 (13%) seats secured by women under the FPTP system.
Similarly, in 2013, 166 (46.4%) of the proportional seats were allocated to women. This is in start contrast to an astonishingly low 10 (4.2%) seats secured by women under the FPTP system.
The Notion of Gender Equality From 2008 to 2013
From 2008 to 2013, gender equality during elections in Nepal took a regressive course.
The number of female CA members elected via FPTP system decreased from 30 (13%) to 10 (4.17%). In 2013, only 10 out of 240 members, only one-third of those elected in 2008 were women.
Similarly, while five political parties got at least one female directly elected in 2008, there were only two political parties that could get at least a female elected in 2013.
There are several interesting observations one can make between 2008 and 2013 CA election results under FPTP system. The first is that while 24 female Maoists were elected under FPTP in 2008, this number dropped to an absolute zero in 2013. Likewise, the total number of Maoists elected dropped from 120 in 2008 to 26 in 2013. Similarly, when the number of elected Nepali Congress candidates increased from 37 in 2008 to 106 in 2013, the number of women elected also increased from 2 to 7. Furthermore, when the number of elected UML candidates increased from 33 in 2008 to 88 in 2013, the number of women elected also increased from 1 to 3.
There appears to be a direct correlation between the number of candidates elected and ratio of men to women among the elected. However, the rewards and consequences of defeat are not evenly shared among male and female candidates. When a political party (NC, UML) does well in elections, the female candidates reap some benefits with marginal gains (from 1 to 3 or 2 to 7) but when the party (Maoists) does poorly, the female candidates are the ones that bear the heavy loss (from 24 to 0).
In 2013, of 240 CA members elected under the FPTP system, only 10 were female.
Due to safeguards of proportional representation, the total number of PR seats allocated to female representatives in both 2008 and 2013 were comparable however. 161 (48%) and 166 (46.4%) seats were allocated to women in 2008 and 2013 respectively.
A total of 191 (33.3%) and 176 (29.4%) females were represented in Constituent Assembly of 2008 and 2013 respectively. These respectable numbers and ratios are possible only due to the proportional representation system put in place during elections.
The notion of gender equality during elections in Nepal still has miles to go and the proportional representation system is one of the better systems put in place to achieve this.
Data Source: Election Commission of Nepal.
Nepal Constituent Assembly Members – Gender Analysis – Google Spreadsheet. Processed data, courtesy of Madhesi Youth.
[Featured Image Credits to Prio.org]