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Fear of violence keeps women out of politics in South Asia

Apr 30, 2014

Violence against women in politics is rampant in the South Asia region, says a new study conducted by UN Women and Centre for Social Research (CSR).

New Delhi: Young women are expected to give sexual favours in lieu of political roles and this is just one of the many forms of violence which women in India have to face as they enter the political arena, noted  Dr  Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women’s Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Violence against women in politics is rampant in South Asia according to a research conducted by the Centre for Social Research & UN Women. The study, ‘Violence against Women in Politics’ revealed that low awareness about politics and overall decline in ‘moral’ values are some of the major reasons for violence.

The research which was conducted in India, Nepal and Pakistan analyses incidents of violence that occurred from 2003 to 2013. It was conducted to address the nature, extent and reasons for violence that inhibits women’s political participation. 800 respondents were interviewed including election commission officials, police, contestants, and families in urban and rural areas.

“Almost 90% of women in these South Asian countries feel that violence breaks their resolve to join politics. We know that where laws are in place, prevalence tends to be lower and fewer people think that violence against women in justifiable,” says Dr Rebecca.

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. The study also finds that more than 60% of women do not participate in politics due to fear of violence.

Dr Ranjana Kumari, Director, CSR said, “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.”

“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,” added Dr Kumari.

According to the study, 50% of respondents felt that the decision on a woman’s participation in electoral politics should be taken by her family while 90% of respondents felt that women should not ignore domestic responsibilities and that violence against women within a family increases when women are unable to fulfill domestic responsibilities.

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