PESHAWAR: While a petition of civil society organisations against the barring of women voters from participating in the recent Lower Dir by-election is pending with the Peshawar High Court, another civil society organisation has feared that women might be denied the right to vote in many parts of Peshawar district during the May 30 local body elections.

Blue Veins, which works to strengthen the people’s voice for free, fair and peaceful elections in Peshawar, urged the relevant authorities to step in and ensure that women use their right to vote in the upcoming polls.

Read: Situationer: LB polls to be litmus test for Dir's women

In a statement issued here, Blue Veins explained how there was a threat that women might not be allowed to use their right to vote in the May 30 local body elections.

It feared the women’s voting rights would once again be compromised by verbal agreements between candidates, community elders and religious leaders in part of Peshawar district, including Landi Bala, Achini, Bala, Sangu, Haji Banda, Landi, Payan, Adizai, Shrkara, Maryamzai, Tela Band, UZ Azakahil, Mashokhel, Shiekh Mohammadi, Sarband, Sangu, Bata Tal, Bara Sheikhan, Shahi Bala, Urmar and Shakarpura.

Civil society says women in parts of Peshawar might be stopped from voting

“Social taboos and poor organisation will likely deprive a large number of women of their right to vote. It is time to reject and challenge these practices. Media and civil society must call on the government to look into it,” it said.

Also read: KP govt confirms women vote blocked by political parties

The organisation said stopping women from voting in elections was a violation of their basic rights.

It said the local government election in the province had created a good opportunity to change the entire paradigm of disfranchising women voters as witnessed in the past.

Explore more: More agreements surface barring women from voting

“We all have the responsibility to bring about positive changes for women in society by increasing their political participation in a culturally and politically constrained environment. It is not enough to recognise that voting is a right. It is equally important to enforce it as a civil responsibility,” it said.

Blue Veins said it was the right of all Pakistani citizens, both men and women, to cast vote for the election of representatives of their choice and that the Constitution didn’t allow discrimination on the basis of sex.

“Under electoral laws, too, it is an offence if someone directly or indirectly uses or threatens to use force, violence or restraint in order to compel a person from propagating against participation of any person in elections on the basis of gender. “This basic principle has also been reiterated in many judgments of our superior courts. The religion, too, entitles women to full protection of rights,” it said.

The organisation said it along with other organisations was focusing on several areas in Peshawar districts and working with communities to increase the voters’ turnout by advocating against discrimination or barriers to voting and engaging young voters for proactive and constructive role in ensuring peaceful elections on May 30.

Read: Women’s absence in Dir by-poll provokes outcry

It said efforts were also being made to create public awareness of dispute resolution mechanisms about elections.

Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2015

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