Women are just as capable as men! They don’t need reserved seats

Published: April 6, 2013
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Fatima Jinnah competed against Ayub Khan in the 1965 elections and though she had lost it is evident that it was not due to her gender.

It is ironic how often not just women but even men have simultaneously debated over the equal rights of women, yet they are deprived of the knowledge of what equality actually means and what diversified leaders (men and women) have stood for and against.

Damning evidence of gender discrimination – however camouflaged it might be – exists in our very own electoral system through reserved seats for women.

“I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.”- Jane Austen.

There is a vast difference in perception when the debate of gender equality is highlighted; the rights of women remain vague even to the most educated of people. There couldn’t be a better platform to commence the debate all over again than the 2013 elections which shall be hoisted in Pakistan within a month (hopefully). Women are to ‘enjoy the perk’ of separate reserved seats in the Provincial and National Assemblies. The provision of reservation of seats for women in the Parliament existed throughout the constitutional history of Pakistan from 1956 to 1973.

At the time of the culmination of this law, the objective was to motivate women to participate in the elections with 10 seats reserved for women. This was later increased to 60 seats in 2002 by Pervez Musharraf.

What astounds me is that perhaps women have overlooked the hidden reason behind this particular right bestowed so generously upon them. This is the assumption that in a male dominant society, a woman cannot win against a man (considered to be her superior not just physically but also mentally). Thus the poor woman must be helped as she is utterly incapable of winning the general seats all by herself.

Another thought provoking aspect of this entire scheme is that these reserved seats, once kept for deserving yet financially unstable women are now an object of succession; former ministers and members of parliament present these seats as a “gift” to their daughters and relatives. This completely denies the common woman her right.

Instead of well-educated, determined and struggling women getting these seats, they go to the heir of the woman who occupies the seat! This destroys the purpose of reserved seats altogether.

Many inspirational women such as Sassui Palijo and Parveen Junejo have fought for general seats in the Assembly and won. Thus, the fact remains that there is no need for reserved seats if women are believed to be capable enough to get elected for general seats instead of being perceived as handicapped creatures who, without assistance are hopelessly unable to achieve their position in society.

The motive behind separate seats was, undoubtedly, in the interest of female candidates but it no longer exists since conditions have changed.  Society has evolved women do not need to be encouraged to take part in political affairs anymore.

Fatima Jinnah had once taken a step to compete against one of the most influential men in the history of Pakistan, Ayub Khan, in the 1965 elections and though she lost, it is evident that it was not due to her gender but merely due to a flaw in the elective system.

It is high time that the view of women as fragile helpless beings be changed. They should be considered as equals – not more not less – but equal to men.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.” Sheryl Sandberg

 

Sheetal Abbas

Sheetal Abbas

A undergraduate student at IBT University, studying Media Sciences in order to pursue future goals of becoming a part of the industry.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.