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ISLAMABAD: Women parliamentarians in both houses of the parliament have outshined their male counterparts in attendance, legislation, resolutions, calling attention notices (CANs), adjournment motions, and questions.

According to the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) report titled, “Women Parliamentarian Performance 2022-23” women members of the National Assembly (NA) and the Senate upheld their tradition to assertively perform their legislative, representative, and oversight functions during 2022-23.

The report is based on direct observation of Senate and National Assembly proceedings conducted by the Trust for Democratic Education and Accountability–Free and Fair Election Network (TDEA-FAFEN), and the information available on the official websites of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Constituting one-fifth of the parliament, women parliamentarians accounted for nearly 35 percent of the parliamentary agenda during the year– 36 percent in the NA and 30 percent in the Senate.

According to the report, women remained the most regular members in both houses throughout the year which witnessed a spiral of political instability arising out of public protests orchestrated by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) after the passage of the no-confidence motion against the former prime minister in April 2022. Barring its 20 members, the PTI MNAs including 27 women members, stayed away from assembly proceedings during the entire year on the pretext of en-mass resignations which were only retracted earlier this year.

On average, each female MNA attended 57 sittings out of 87 sittings which is 66 percent of the National Assembly sittings as compared to an average of 46 sittings or 53 percent attended by their male counterparts. Similarly, each female Senator attended an average of 39 sittings of 57 sittings which is 68 percent against their male counterparts’ average of 32 sittings or 56 percent total sittings.

Despite remarkable contributions made by women legislators, their agenda continued to be neglected in the parliament. Almost half of the CANs, more than two-thirds of the private member bills, and all private member resolutions, motions for public interest discussions, and proposals for amendments to assembly rules either lapsed or remained pending until the last session. The questions remained the only intervention where female MNAs received a higher response rate than their male colleagues.

Unlike the National Assembly, the Senate appeared more responsive to female legislators’ agenda. A gender-disaggregated comparison of agenda items shows both male and female Senators were responded to by the House in a similar pattern. However, the female Senators’ motions for public interest discussions (including motions under Rule 218 and Adjournment Motions) received less parliamentary attention than male Senators’ motions.

On average, each female MNA contributed 18 agenda items to the Orders of the Day against nine by male MNAs. Similarly, each female Senator contributed 12 agenda items to the Orders of the Day against nine by male Senators. While all female Senators participated in their House’s proceedings, a total of eight female MNAs did not participate in the House during the reporting period. In comparison to the male MNAs, female MNAs participation remained better.

Thematically, the women parliamentarians sought discussions on a range of public importance issues, including inflation, energy supply and pricing, the performance of government departments, protection of women, children, and human rights, and law and order in the country. The legislative agenda put forward by women parliamentarians included health reforms, protection of workers’ rights, governance and institutional reforms, along with constitutional amendments concerning women’s rights, transgender rights, amendments to criminal laws for improved protection of women and children.

The parliamentarians’ contribution to the agenda has been analysed using the “Order of the Day” of both Houses. The report covers 10 sessions of the National Assembly (41st to 49th) held between March 25, 2022, and February 9, 2023, and nine sessions of the Senate (318th to 325th) held between May 23, 2022, and February 20, 2023.

The section-wise details presented in this report include analyses of the contribution of women parliamentarians in legislation, resolutions, CANs, adjournment motions, and questions. The section on the attendance of members is based on the attendance records available on the official websites.

The parliamentarians’ participation in the National Assembly and the Senate proceedings included in this report has been assessed on the basis of their plenary performance and does not reflect upon their performance and participation in the Committees and their role as holders of an executive or a parliamentary office such as the speaker, deputy speaker, federal ministers, parliamentary secretaries, and committees’ chairperson. The individual performance scorecards of each female parliamentarian included in this report are also available on TDEA-FAFEN’s online parliamentary portal.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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