Participation of women in politics in Bangladesh has increased. Women hold positions in both the national and local levels, including three of the highest positions—Prime Minister, Leader of the Oppositions, and the Speaker. Some of the important ministries are also held by women, such as defense, foreign, energy, agriculture, and home (Majumdar, 2012). Women mayors have also been elected. The reserved seats for women in parliament also rose from 45 to 50 through the 15th Amendment of the Constitution on June 30, 2011.
Women in Parliament:
In the 10th parliament, there are a total of 50 standing committees with a total number of 509 persons of whom 428 are male and 81 are female.
After the 2014 elections, there are 69 women parliamentarians of whom 50 are on the reserved seats and 19 have been elected directly.
Only 27 out of a total of 540 candidates contested from different political parties (except BNP and 19 parties alliances) of whom 19 won the elections.
Dr. Shireen Sharmin, first woman Speaker and new State Minister, is significant as she is the first ever female parliament speaker in the history of Bangladesh.
10-30 seats were reserved for women depending on the size of the ‘pourasavas’/ city corporation.
As per the local Government (City Corporation) Act 2009, one-third of the counselors’ seats are reserved for women candidates, and women can also contest for direct election for the general seats.
Elections to four City Corporations and nine pourasavas were held on August 4, 2008, in which 194 (2.4 percent) women candidates contested for 39 reserved councilor’s seats.
In nine pourasavas, 120 (0.47 percent) women contested for 27 reserved seats.
Women in Local Government:
In 1976, the Bangladesh government adopted the Local Government Ordinance and introduced a three-tier local government system.
Union Parishad Act (Second Amendment) 1997 allows for direct election of one chairperson and 12 members to the Union Parishad, with three seats reserved for women members. Each woman member represents a single ward.12
In elections held in 2003, 22 women were elected as chairpersons out of a total of 232 women candidates who contested, and 79 won in the general seats out of 617 women candidates. 39,419 women candidates competed for 12,684 reserved seats.
The Upazilla Parishad Act 2008 reserved one seat for women among the two elected vice chairpersons. In the latest Upazilla election held in February 2014, 115 women candidates were elected as Vice-Chairman.
In elections held on January 22, 2009 under the RPO 2008, 480 women have been elected to the reserved post of vice chairpersons in 480 Upazillas out of a total number of 1,936 contestants.
However, despite this, women appear to have very little role in the decision-making bodies of political parties. The two main political parties led by women only have a small number of female members in the advisory and national or executive committees. It shows limited involvement of women in the party’s hierarchical structures, despite its top positions being occupied by female (Wilson Center, 2014).
The participation of women in politics appears to be “more of a privilege than a right” because of the strong patriarchy in the country. To be able to incorporate women in the political processes, Bangladesh used the gender-based quota system in order to break down the barriers, becoming women’s gateway to the political world. This allows them to challenge the same social structure that disempowered them. However, this remains debated upon as its favors lean more towards women in the upper stratum of society (Majumdar, 2012).
Wilson Center (2014). Women Leading Public Service and Political Participation in South Asia: New and Emerging Developments (pp. 14-16). The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (PDF)
Majumdar, R. (2012, June 27). Are Bangladeshi women politicians tokens in the political arena?. Retrieved February 4, 2016, from Asia Foundation: http://asiafoundation.org/in-asia/2012/06/27/are-bangladeshi-women-politicians-tokens-in-the-political-arena/
PDF : Opportunities and Hindrances of Women’s Paritipation in Free and Fair Election (Democracywatch: 2014)
Link : Quota Project: quota for woman representatives in Parliament and at sub-national level
Link : Gender and Electoral Process (Amadesh)