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Title: Women's political participation in Bangladesh : institutional reforms, actors and outcomes
Other Titles: Meng jia la nü xing de zheng zhi can yu : zhi du gai ge, xing dong zhe ji jie guo
孟加拉女性的政治參與 : 制度改革, 行動者及結果
Authors: Panday, Pranab Kumar
Department: Department of Public and Social Administration
Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2008
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Women in politics -- Bangladesh.
Notes: CityU Call Number: HQ1236.5.B3 P36 2008
xi, 255 leaves : ill. 30 cm.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 210-231)
Type: thesis
Abstract: One of the primary objectives of this research is to analyze the reform initiatives involved in enhancing women’s political participation in Bangladesh. In addition, it aims to identify the actors behind these events, and explore the role (or impact) of reforms on women’s political participation in the Union Parishad (third tier of the exiting local government system) of the country. Generally, this research has employed a qualitative research strategy which is supplemented by appropriate quantitative methods. The first major observation of this study is that given a patriarchal and maledominated societal structure, it is arduous for women to enter the political scene. In this regard, bringing changes to formal institutions and the power structure is imperative since institutional regulations determine the number of women that should (or must) be elected in the Union Parishad (UP). Moreover, there are rules which stipulate an individual’s role in local institutions. Thus, it is believed that reforms are the most effective means for initiating changes in the institutional design. Second, the reform decreed in 1997 is not actually due to the influence of a particular actor but is rather a combination of different state and societal actors. Basically, the government had a dominant role since it possesses the legitimate authority to enact reforms. However, societal actors comprised of political parties, women’s organizations, NGOs, donors, and several international conventions have also influenced the reform process either directly or indirectly. A third set of observations confirms that the Act of 1997 did not augment women’s economic freedom to the extent that they have complete control over the expenditure of their earnings. However, their role in family decision making has slightly improved since they are already participants in meetings where family decisions are made. Nevertheless, this participation has remained restricted to such functions like serving as an information provider only. With regard to the state of women’s social liberty, the study finds that elected women members still suffer from acceptability crisis. An interesting outcome is that elected women members have been accepted by a section of the population despite strong conservatism among its majority. Moreover, freedom of movement of the women members outside their home has increased, even though they still need to be accompanied by male members of the family on such trips. The study also suggests that elected women members have not yet reached an equal status with their male colleagues in the Union Parishad. Worse, they are not allocated equal shares in project distribution or committee memberships, and their opinions in Union Parishad decision making are generally ignored since they are only a minority. Overall, elected women legislators work in adversarial circumstances in which the majority of the people, including their peers, families, and constituents, appear to be their opponents. These findings highlight the need to reserve seats for women as a strategy to foster their political participation. However, the reservation of seats through legislation remains a controversial issue in Bangladesh and even elsewhere. Despite of this, there are still reasons to be optimistic because the imposition of quotas has helped change the popular political culture to gradually become more conducive to women’s political participation. Moreover, the reform of 1997 has opened up opportunities for women to take part in the political process. The struggle for women’s active participation in politics has just started, and women elected members still have a long way to make their physical presence felt in the decisionmaking process.
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