Pakistan adopted universal adult suffrage in 1956, granting all women and men aged 18 and above the de jure right to vote. However, severe gender inequalities in electoral participation have persisted since 1970 when the first national assembly elections were held on the basis of universal adult franchise.
At the time of the 2018 general elections, women comprised forty-four percent of registered voters – indicating approximately 12 million missing women in the vote register. Equally important, the male–female gap in voter turnout in the 2018 general elections stood at 9.1 per cent, with 11 million fewer women exercising their right to vote than men. Pakistan will need to address this gender inequality in electoral participation if it is going to transition to a gender inclusive democratic polity. This will require overcoming the twin challenges of gender inequality in voter registration and turnout.
The report argues that it would not be possible to forge an effective agenda of action to address the gender inequality in participation in big cities without recognizing that it is a product of a complex dynamic between women, social attitudes in households and the gendered nature of political space and political engagement. The main aim of the report is to provide an understanding of this complex dynamic by unpacking the constraints women face in exercising political agency. It is led by a simple question – why does a gender gap in political participation exist in a big city context?
Read the policy report in full.