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This edited volume examines policies aimed at increasing the representation of women in governing institutions in six South Asian countries. Divided into three parts, it addresses the implications of uniformity and diversity for the substantive representation of women in parliament, civil service and local government. The contributing authors explore the scope and limits of ‘positive discriminatory policies’ within distinct country contexts, and the implications of the lack of such policies in other countries. Their findings shed new light on the extent to which the higher presence of women in different governing institutions matters, particularly in respect of promoting women’s issues; and also on the way men and women in different governing institutions look upon each other’s roles and adopt strategies for mutual adjustment. This innovative collection will appeal to students and scholars of gender studies, public policy and administration, international relations, law and political science.



Chapter 1. Introduction

This chapter explores the rationale of women’s participation in three different institutions of governance—parliament, civil service, and local government—in South Asia and examines the mechanisms used to ensure adequate representation of women who often remain underrepresented more because of discriminatory state policies and dominance of patriarchal values than for their own faults. Two different methods are used to recruit people to different institutions—merit and quota. Different variants of the quota system used in different parts of the world have been identified and their implications have also been explored. Reference has been made to the difficulty of identifying any causal link between an increase in descriptive representation that follows the introduction of the quota system and substantive representation. Reference has also been made to the notion of ‘critical mass’ and the problem of making it work.
Nizam Ahmed

Women in Parliament


Chapter 2. Alangkar or Ahangkar? Reserved-Seat Women Members in the Bangladesh Parliament

This chapter investigates the role of reserved-seat women parliamentarians in Bangladesh—those elected indirectly to the parliament, now numbering 50, using the notions of descriptive representation and substantive representation developed by Pitkin Empirical evidence shows that the ‘quota women ’ are not as docile as people often tend to assume; they have, in fact, fared better than the popularly elected women parliamentarians in performing parliamentary functions. Several factors, however, still discourage them to play a major proactive role. This paper identifies those factors, based on a review of secondary literature as well as in-depth interview with several women MPs and examines the implications for empowering women in parliament
Nizam Ahmed, Sadik Hasan

Chapter 3. Women in Parliament—Entering the Public Male Domain in Bhutan

This chapter examines hurdles of women’s entry to a masculine public domain, the parliament, in Bhutan, one of the world’s new democracies. It reveals a masculine-driven election campaign, impediments of seeking women’s candidature in the parliament and the dynamics of men and women politicians. It discloses challenges of being women legislator in male-dominated parliamentary committees, particularly in gaining male legislators’ support to pass women-related bills. Further, the Bhutanese context shows a contested view on seat reservation in parliament. Nonetheless, the first ten women parliamentarians were trailblazers who were able to demonstrate a principled, feminine, political leadership in a masculine environment. They contributed to Bhutan’s development by enabling legislation which directly impacts on women and children (rape and domestic violence) in their first term.
Sonam Chuki

Chapter 4. Deepening Democracy in India: The Role of Women Parliamentarians and Their Challenges

Women as a gender category have encountered systemic disabilities woven around sociopolitical structures of dominance and deprivation in the past. However, today women are gradually proving to be an indispensible part of every sphere of life ranging from family to the larger domains of politics and economy. This paper attempts to examine the nature and scope of women’s role in the larger political landscape of India and tries to unravel the critical aspects linked to their assertion in the political structures, institutions, and policymaking processes. This paper also examines the roadblocks that prevented women from entering into the so-called male bastion which is evident from the number of their overall representation in the Indian Parliament. It attempts to understand whether women’s political participation and representation in the Parliament and legislatures has any bearing on the overall question of gender equality and gender justice, which will lead to their empowerment and emancipation in the society.
Sangita Dhal, Bidyut Chakrabarty

Chapter 5. Women in the Parliament: Changing Gender Dynamics in the Political Sphere in Nepal

Nepal saw a significant increase in women’s participation in politics in 2008. Women won 33% of the seats in the first Constitution Assembly (CA) election held in 2008. It was a historic achievement and a radical transformation in the political sphere of Nepal. Currently, women are appointed in various key positions. This chapter analyzes the complex, multifaceted, and nonlinear nature of the lived experiences of women parliamentarians in Nepal. It also examines whether women’s increased presence in the parliament has made any difference to the political sphere, especially in regard to making key legislative changes. It also aims to shed light on the changing gender relations within the political sphere, with a particular focus on the ways in which male and female lawmakers perceive each other. This chapter is based on author’s interviews with 32 women parliamentarians in Nepal.
Punam Yadav

Chapter 6. Who Speaks for Women in Parliament? Patriarchy and Women MNAs in Pakistan

This chapter explores the role of ‘quota women ,’ constituting 17.5% of the total members in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Available evidence shows that with the presence of more women, representation of women’s issues increased and therefore confirms the relationship between female representatives and representation of women. Data also reveal that reserved-seat members of the National Assembly represented women better than those elected from general seats ; they also made major contributions to promote women’s issues. There are, however, limits to what women members can do. Women’s substantive representation does not depend solely on the number of women elected but on the presence and complex interactions of institutional and individual-level factors. These factors intervene in the process of substantive representation of women. These findings indicate that the relationship between descriptive and substantive is not deterministic but complicated.
Nusrat Jahan Chowdhury

Chapter 7. Gender Inclusive Governance: Representation of Women in National and Provincial Political Bodies in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, there is an increased political awareness, higher voter turnout, and active participation at election propaganda among women but their representation in the elected bodies is pitifully low. Women have been excluded from key governing institutions and pushed into the second-class citizens. Despite the fact that Sri Lanka has had seven decades of independence and democracy, politics still continues to be dominated by men and thereby causing constraints for women to participate actively in governance. This chapter examines the issue of gender imbalance or women’s minimal representation in elected bodies at national and provincial levels in Sri Lanka. It identifies different factors, especially political, socio-cultural, economic, and psychological, that tend to block women’s entry into parliament and other elected bodies.
Kamala Liyanage

Women in Civil Service


Chapter 8. Balancing Work and Family: Women in Bangladesh Civil Service

This article explores the reasons for continued low rates of participation of women in the BCS despite having favorable economic and social, as well as pro-women affirmative recruitment policies. The study finds that women face intra-bureaucratic structural and cultural constraints when they enter the BCS. At the same time, women bureaucrats face issues at home when they try to balance work and family roles. These two-prong constraints further discourage women to enter and progress in the BCS. Based on empirical research, this article identifies gender discrimination, sexual harassment, overwork, and behavior of male colleagues as major constraints in the work place. At the household level, they endure hostility in interpersonal relationships, arguments with husbands, and being blamed for children’s poor performance at school. In this situation, women bureaucrats adopt diverse strategies to balance work and family roles. This paper explores the scope and limits of these strategies.
Nishat Afroze Ahmed, Ferdous Jahan

Chapter 9. Women in the Bhutanese Bureaucracy

This chapter outlines the existing legal and policy framework and the trend in women’s representation in the civil service of Bhutan. While highlighting the encouraging growth of women in the civil service, the paper also puts forth the issue of poor women representation at the leadership levels and the steadfast but slow increase overall. Based on studies and researches carried out on women’s representation and on perceptions of the public, it is presented that literacy and education outcomes, stereotypes and socio-cultural beliefs and practices and the lack of a gender friendly environment at the workplace play a deterring role in the representation of women in the bureaucracy. The paper also goes on to mention some of the progressive policies adopted by the Government to create a conducive environment for women’s full and equal participation.
Kunzang Lhamu

Chapter 10. Women in Civil Service in India

The Indian Civil Service (ICS) has remained a male preserve due to a complex set of socioeconomic and ideological factors. The composition of the ICS is at odds with the gender make-up of the society they represent. This suggests that women’s voices are being silenced. The scene is, however, undergoing slow and steady changes. Besides sustained movements opposed to gender discrimination, the prevalent political authority seems persuaded against sociopolitical practices supportive of gender inequality. Although the campaign is gaining strength day-by-day, it cannot be said to have uprooted completely the sources of prejudice against women. The paper therefore argues that the campaign for women’s empowerment appears to have created a mind-set in support of gender equality. This mind-set is also evident in the changing texture of the ICS, in terms of the growing number of women in responsible positions in the administration.
Shivani Singh

Chapter 11. Limits of Inclusion: Women’s Participation in Nepalese Civil Service

The Government of Nepal has introduced a policy of inclusion, reserving a certain percentage of seats for women [as well as for some others] in different institutions of governance including the bureaucracy. This chapter probes into the inclusion policy, exploring factors that still discourage women to join the civil service in large number. Available evidence shows that many seats reserved for women often remain vacant for lack of availability of suitable women candidates. Those who succeed and also those failing in the civil service examinations perceive the role of the Public Service Commission (PSC) as impartial. None of the respondents raised any allegation of malpractices by any agency. The study finds family orientation and education as the two most important variables explaining the low rate of participation of women in the civil service.
Narendra Raj Paudel

Chapter 12. Women in Pakistan Civil Service

The Administrative reforms (1974) coupled with the affirmative action (2008) have served to facilitate the entry of women in the Civil Service of Pakistan . However, the prevalent masculine culture of the Service constituting so-called gender-neutral practices of more-than-full-time ethos and an explicit demand of job rotation remains unchanged and implies an extra hardship for females encumbered with domestic responsibilities ultimately culminating into their automatic exclusion and alienation. Family support appears to be a major moderator for the female career success besides a few systemic exemptions as per the collectivistic cultural traditions, which, however, prove counterproductive in the long run by way of endorsing the conventional stereotypes about the extra baggage of working females undermining their worth as a valuable human resource.
Nighat Ghulam Ansari

Chapter 13. Women in Administrative Service in Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan women have made remarkable achievements in the spheres of education, healthcare‚ economy and sports etc. At present, they hold about 64% of the civil service positions. However, the role of women in the Sri Lankan civil service is controversial. Some believe that they have made a major contribution. Others think that they cannot be as effective as men. Although this is an important issue, so far no academic research has been done on women’s role in the civil service in Sri Lanka. This chapter seeks to fill that gap. It examines the reasons that account for the increase of women in the civil service and the perception of men and women public officials toward each other. It identifies the problems that are likely to discourage gender mainstreaming in the civil service.
M. A. F. Anwara Nilmi, Darshi Thoradeniya

Women in Local Government


Chapter 14. Women’s Representation and Participation in Local Government in Bangladesh: New Openings and Remaining Barriers

This paper seeks to provide an in-depth analysis of women’s experience in local government and their ability to exercise political agency to negotiate local-level politics and various barriers. Despite the wealth of literature on the impact of quotas and direct elections on women’s representation at the local level and various program evaluation studies, there is a lack of nuanced and context-grounded scholarship on what are the different pathways through which women gain access to political power at the local level and what enhances women’s political agency (i.e., being effective representatives). This chapter aims to address this gap. The findings of the study show that the quality and processes of women’s engagement in the local-level bodies have changed, their awareness and knowledge about political and community affairs as well as about their rights and entitlements have increased, and they are increasingly independent actors in their own right.
Maheen Sultan

Chapter 15. Proxy or Agency? Women in Rural Local Government in India

This chapter attempts to examine the extent to which women’s greater presence in local governance makes any difference in policy-making process in India. It also tries to analyze the effectiveness of legislative measures for empowerment of women and highlights the issues and challenges therein. It looks into the dynamism of the process whereby women’s empowerment is achieved through legislation and seeks to analyze whether political participation of women does in fact translate into concrete women empowerment. This paper seeks to go beyond the numbers and to discover the realities of women’s presence in local councils. Case studies find that women’s empowerment is relatively successful in some States in India (Kerala, Bengal) and relatively unsuccessful in others (Bihar, Uttar Pradesh). The paper tries to identify factors that account for the difference.
Prakash Chand

Chapter 16. Gender and Local Governance in Pakistan

Local government in Pakistan had a new beginning under General Pervez Musharraf. A new Local Government Ordinance, introduced in 2001, provided for reserving 33% of seats for women in all three tiers of local government, i.e., District, Tehsil and Union Councils through an affirmative action. The response of rural women to the government plan to associate them in the local governing process was quite positive. A review of the performance of women councillors at the end of the first term of Devolution of Power Plan 2001 revealed that women performed their roles and responsibilities considerably well by making their mark, creating an enabling environment in institutions and paving ways for fellow women members of their communities for their contribution. The chapter also tries to identify areas where councillors faced difficulties and suggested a positive intervention policy to overcome them.
Nasira Jabeen, Umm-e-Farwa Mubasher

Chapter 17. Testing the Politics of Presence: Women’s Representation in Local Government in Sri Lanka

This chapter explores the reasons underlying the low representation of women in local government in Sri Lanka. It also analyzes the results of the last (2011) local elections, focusing specially on the strategies adopted by winning and non-winning male and female candidates. This study shows that women have not been recognized as equal to men in the political arena and especially as candidates. They face more difficulties than men do to win the local elections. Some strategies used to win the elections by women are different from that of men, mainly due to women’s individual, cultural and structural/institutional differences. When compared to men, it is obvious that the factors which help to win the elections for both men and women are quite similar, but due to the socio-cultural and individual factors and lack of opportunities the men are at an advantage.
Kamala Liyanage



Chapter 18. Does Inclusion Matter? Women in Governing Institutions in South Asia

This chapter provides a comparative account, identifying the policies and strategies different countries in the South Asian region have adopted to include the ‘excluded’—women—in three governing institutions. It explains the reasons underlying the trend in increase in representation and identifies factors that are likely to impede mainstreaming gender in different institutions of governance. Different country chapters reveal that the rate of increase in representation can be seen as uneven, with some countries progressing at a much faster rate than others, notwithstanding the fact that they have adopted similar policies. This chapter examines the factors that account for these differences. It also provides a comparative account of the way men and women in different institutions of governance look upon each other and define inter-role relationships. Reference has been made to the way women in different countries try to balance home and outside roles.
Nizam Ahmed


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