Promoting Women Participation in Elections: Challenging Electoral Gender Based Violence
Elections are something to be celebrated as they are the mechanism by which the people choose who will represent them and what the agenda will be. Elections are democracy in action. The people trust that they have the capacity to make the best decisions for the nation and go ahead to do so. Elections however, can only be democracy in action if they are open to all to participate. We know that throughout history, this has unfortunately not been the case. Groups of people have been denied the vote based on arbirtray things such as race and gender. In 2017, things have gotten better, but we still have a long way to go.
In Kenya, one can vote as long as they are a citizen and are 18 years and above. When it comes to representation, there is room for different groups with women, the youth and persons with disabilities having seats set aside for them. However, when it comes to competitive seats, the reality is quite different especially when it comes to women. There is a resistant to women in leadership which has led to electoral gender based violence against women aspirants, as well as women bearing the brunt of any pre or post election violence.
The UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 on women and peace and security on 31 October 2000. The resolution reaffirms the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts, peace negotiations, peace-building, peacekeeping, humanitarian response and in post-conflict reconstruction and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict.
How do we ensure that the electoral process is not a violent one for women? This requires us to first acknowledge that there exists an issue and that it is rooted in a number of beliefs and attitudes that trivialize women’s humanity, their contributions to society and their voices. We then must make serious steps to include women in the electoral process as per what is already set out in our laws as it makes no sense to have provisions if they are not implemented. There needs to be action taken against those who perpetuate electoral gender based violence whether through threatening women not to run for seats or women not to vote for certain candidates as well as crimes during pre or post election violence such as sexual assault and land dispossesssion.
Men need to stand up and be counted if they truly believe electoral gender based violence is wrong. This means campaigning for women, as many have done including fathers of various candidates, and challenging stereotypes that keep women at a disadvantage. This also means standing up to those that are looking to perpetuate violence against women during elections. Women’s bodies are not war zones. Women’s voices are not to be feared and surpressed but to be encouraged and listened to.
As we go into the 2017 Kenya General elections, we must stay vigilant to defend women candidates against intimidation and sabotage as well as push for a safe environment for all women during the elections. It is a shame that a democratic process should instill fear in the most vulnerable. It goes against everything a democratic process should be. Let us all pledge to have elections void of electoral gender based violence and make progress by electing more women to our national assembly, as we seek gender parity in representation.http://www.mwendengao.com/2017/07/28/promoting-women-participation-in-elections-challenging-electoral-gender-based-violence/LifestyleElections,electoral gender based violence,peace,UN Resolution 1325