Women MPs contribute 33% to parliamentary business

Fafen says only a quarter of female-sponsored bills passed first reading stage

Our Correspondent March 08, 2019

ISLAMABAD: Women parliamentarians maintained a track record of consistently surpassing reasonable performance expectations during the year 2018-2019 by making remarkable contributions to setting the agenda for parliamentary business, and sustaining spirited deliberations on a range of pressing matters.

This has been observed in a report released by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) on the occasion of International Women's Day. Female lawmakers constitute one fifth (20 per cent or 89) of the parliament – 69 in the National Assembly and 20 in the Senate.

They sponsored 53 per cent (39 out of 74) private members' bills, 27 per cent (27 out of 100) resolutions, 47 per cent (51 out of 108) Calling Attention Notices, and 32 per cent (561 out of 1772) questions in both houses of the parliament.

They also initiated 40 per cent (four out of 10) proposals for amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure and 39 per cent (41 out of 104) motions for debate on issues of public importance. They initiated around 30 per cent of the parliamentary interventions singly or in partnership with other women while also partnered an additional three per cent business with their male colleagues.

On an average, each female lawmaker in the National Assembly sponsored eight agenda items in comparison to three items by each male lawmaker. However, in the Senate, they sponsored seven agenda items as compared to eight items by their male colleagues.

Besides agenda contribution, female lawmakers also actively participated in the debates on scheduled business and in raising points of order and matters of public importance.

Around 62 per cent female lawmakers - 46 per cent of female MNAs and 90 per cent of female Senators – contributed to the discussions and debates during the parliamentary proceedings.

An analysis of the official attendance records of the National Assembly and the Senate illustrates that female lawmakers are more regular in attendance than their male colleagues. On an average, each female member of the National Assembly (MNA) attended 83 per cent of the NA sittings while each senator attended 64 per cent of the Senate sittings.

The male MNAs and male senators attended 70 per cent and 57 per cent sittings of their respective house. Similarly, each NA sitting witnessed around 70 per cent of the female MNAs in attendance as compared to 60 per cent male MNAs. In the upper house, each sitting had 83 per cent female senators and 71 per cent male senators present in the House.

However, despite female lawmakers' remarkable contributions to agenda, their business suffered from neglect in the lower house. The analysis of the legislative records suggests the bills initiated by female lawmakers were less likely to be taken up in the house as compared to those sponsored by male MNA.

Only a quarter (five out of 19) of the female-sponsored bills passed the first reading stage in comparison to 58 per cent (seven out of 12) male sponsored bills.

Similar was the case with the female-sponsored resolutions.  Only two (12 per cent) of 16 female-sponsored resolutions were adopted as compared to 13 (45 per cent) male-sponsored resolutions.

Female-sponsored agenda may also have lower chances of being addressed because of the fact that it mostly originates as private members' business unlike the male-sponsored agenda, a considerable portion of which comes from the government due to the male-dominated federal cabinet.

In comparison with last parliamentary year (2017-18), the contribution of the female lawmakers to the agenda in 2018-2019 witnessed a decline from 39 per cent to 33 percent.

However, attendance of female MNAs has increased since last year while the attendance of female senators remained unchanged. The average attendance of each female MNA was 67 per cent during 2017-18 and 83 per cent during 2018-19.

The performance analysis report covers eight sessions of the 15th National Assembly held between August 2018 and February 2019 and 13 sessions of the Senate held between March 2018 and Feb 2019.