Violence against women in politics rampant in South Asia

Violence against women in politics is rampant in South Asia, according to a recent study conducted by the Centre for Social Research & UN Women in India, Nepal and Pakistan.

New Delhi: Violence against women in politics is rampant in South Asia, according to a recent study conducted by the Centre for Social Research & UN Women in India, Nepal and Pakistan.

The study, `Violence against Women in Politics` revealed that the insufficient implementation of laws, lack of support from police and judiciary and overall decline in `moral` values are the major reasons for violence.

The study finds that while the percentage of female voters and women candidates fielded by political parties has increased in all three countries, the percentage of female representatives in national bodies has decreased.

More than 60 per cent of women do not participate in politics due to fear of violence.

"Almost 90 per cent of women in these countries feel that violence breaks their resolve to join politics. From our comprehensive review of laws on violence against women, it is clear that none of the three countries has legislation that deals strictly with offenders to prevent violence against women in politics," said Dr Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, representative of UN Women`s Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Except for a few chosen female politicians, most of the elected female representatives have a limited or marginal role in important discussions within their political party.

"South Asia is home to one-fifth of the worlds` population and one third of South Asian women experience violence throughout their lives which is also a common feature of South Asian politics.

"Candidates, their families as well as voters have routinely faced violence during elections. The violent nature of politics within South Asia often deters women from participating within the political sphere," said Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director of CSR.

The study confirms that the existing cycle of violence is also fuelled by current power structures and gender discrimination.

Almost 50 per cent of respondents felt that the decision on a woman`s participation in electoral politics should be taken by her family amd 90 per cent felt that women should not ignore domestic responsibilities.

60 per cent of respondents felt that police do not respect women`s rights and most cases go unreported leading to a higher number of cases of violence against women.

"Violence against women is institutionalised through family structures, wider social and economic frameworks and cultural and religious traditions and is a widely accepted method for controlling women", Kumari said.

"Moreover, it is largely overlooked by law enforcement agencies and is ignored by those in power," she said.

The study recommended expansion of political reservations for women, with an extension of a minimum 33 per cent reservation at all levels and that political parties should ensure that no tickets are given to those who have criminal cases, particularly against women.

They should also include more women party members in central and selection committees and in Parliamentary committees.

Apart from that the Election Commission needs to take steps to recognise, protect, promote and institutionalize women`s participation in politics.
As a part of the study various incidents of violence that occurred from 2003 to 2013 were analyzed.
It was conducted to address the nature, extent and reasons for violence that inhibits womens political participation.

800 respondents were interviewed including election commission officials, police, contestants and families in urban and rural areas.