The debate on quota for Bhutanese women continues

Should there be a quota system for women in governance and politics?

This is an issue on which  the debate continues in Bhutan.

The Bhutanese talked to a number of people from different  walks of life – both male and female. And got an interesting array of  answers but the central logic behind their opinion was almost always the same – women in Bhutan don’t need reservation of seats in governance and politics because they are capable enough to earn them.

The chairperson of the National Council, Namgay Penjore, said in Bhutan quota system should not be introduced as women are progressing with time.

Instead of depending on quota, they should come forward and grab the opportunities for parliamentary seats, he said. Quota system might deprive women of such opportunities.   “In future women will surely be respected as they are a good decision makers.”

A civil servant said there are women who are capable of being politicians but whether they are willing to join the field or not is the concern.

One of the two opposition party’s MP in the National Assembly, Damchoe Dorji,  said women must realize that being given special treatment such as quota will not be in their interest  in the long run.

The quota if introduced, he said, will keep the Bhutanese women a step behind men. He says women must be given a level playing field to shine without any handicap.

He said if his party – People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – had won the elections they would have had at least three capable women ministers.

“When women all over the world can be prime ministers and presidents why can’t our women,” asked Damchoe Dorji.

The executive director of  the National Commission for Women and Children (NCWC), Phintsho Choeden, said less number of women participating in politics proves the existence of discrimination. This, she said, has led to decisions and policies that make women lack confidence and lose out.

She said, “My personal take on women’s quota is that it will be good as an interim measure for  them to begin with but not as a permanent solution. But in the process of women joining politics, it can serve as a catalyst.”

She feels that since more than 50 percent of Bhutan’s population is female, there must be more women representatives in the government.  Women will understand women better, Phintsho Choeden said. Therefore, a good difference in the lives of women can be made by women’s  participation in politics, leadership, and decision making.

The advisor to the National Environment Commission (NEC), Dasho Paljor Dorji, objected to having quota for women calling it “demeaning”.

“I don’t think you should get a  seat in politics because of quota as it is more like begging and taking the seat of someone else more capable. I don’t think women need quota as women are capable of reaching their goal and targets,” he said, “If I were a woman I would reject the quota system as I wouldn’t want to be there because of quota but because I deserve it.”

MP Tshering Tenzin does not like the idea of quota system.  He says there are rights and duties  in the Constitution which  are more than enough to guarantee equality among men and women.

The head of community Outreach Unit of Respect, Educate, Nature and Empower (RENEW), Meenakshi Rai, said Bhutanese women are doing much better compared with those in neighboring countries.

“Women have progressed now and those who are interested in politics should be supported and encouraged but not with quota system,” she added.

MP Karma Lhamo said she is neither for nor against the quota system. However, she says a study should  be conducted to find out the pros and cons of the system.

MP Tshering Tenzin encourages women to join politics. He feels women have the intellectual capacity that can bring about changes.“Having both men and women working together will result in exchange of better ideas,” he said.

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One comment

  1. I have not read through all this article but i am admamant on my view that seriously Bhutan should not have quota for following three reason:

    1. we should not promote and instigate complacency amongst Bhutanese Women who are generally hardworking. Quota reservation will promote complacency.

    2. As many people might be aware, quota system has been a blunt failure in many countries.

    There is no institutionalized discrimination against women in Bhutan. We are lucky that we live in a egalitarian society where every one, women and men, adult and child, old and yound are all treated same.
    We need to focus more on how we can facilitate and encourage through different mechanisms and platforms to enable participation of women in all spheres of life incluidng national and local assemblies, government, private and corporate sector including military personnel as well as toward building a skilled labour force.

    we need to gear toward empowerment of skills and talents amongst gender and not bluntly on empowerment for position.

    This are just my raw thinking and i would still prefer a system where there is no quota.

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