WOMEN IN POLITICS (A REVIEW OF COMMON AND ISLAMIC LAW PROVISIONS)
1.1Background of the study
The exclusion of women in political participation and decision making processes was one inherited by human history. Even when democracy had birth ancient Athens in 5th century BC, the exclusion of women from political participation and decision making was existed. The Athenians women had no a right to vote or to participate in the democratic process and even they had not considered as a citizen. The only Athenian men had a right to attend meetings of the assembly, a meeting of the citizen body which was called more than 40 times per year (Bentley et al., 1995). The absence of women in the involvement of the decisions of the assembly had deprived them to have a right to speak and to vote at the assembly. This also prevented from them to have a chance to directly determine what the law should be.
The other European countries women had neither a right to political participation nor involve the decision making and public affairs before 20th century. At the beginning of the 19 centuries Britain electoral system was far from democratic. The Britain electoral system was male adult suffrage and did not provide the means for fair and equal representations. The right to vote and be voted was restricted to men. Women had no a role in the political sphere of the country. This had result the rise of the suffragists (women campaigned to win the vote) (Bentley et al., 1995).
Despite the efforts of the chartists, a mass movement of mainly working people who demanded universal suffrage in the late 1830s and 1840s, it was not until 1867 that the second reform Act was passed. Just after the end of the First World War Britain was fully recognized the women’s right to political participation and decision making process (Bentley et al., 1995).
After the establishment of the UN in 1946, there is an increasing recognition among international community of women’s historic exclusion from structures of power. The UN has been made a global commitment to redress gender imbalance in politics. Thus, to enhance the political participation of women the UN has been adopted several instruments recognizing the women’s right to equally participate in politics.
Most notable one was the universal declaration of human rights (UDHR), which in its Article 21 recognized the right of every one, including both women and men, to take part in the government of their country, directly or through freely chosen representative. To enforce these important rights, the UN adapted the convention on civil and political rights, which is legally obliged the state parties to ensure the effectiveness of women’s political participation and public affairs without discrimination on the ground of, among others, sex. The UN also adopted a special convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination of women (CEDAW), which elaborates the nature of women’s political rights and the steps required to promote greater equality between women and men in this area.
Although these efforts were become fruitful in some areas, women are not still having an enough space in the political involvements. This is true in many countries of Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa as UN Human Rights Committee has found that “the right to participate in the conduct of political affairs is not fully implemented everywhere on an equal basis….” (UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights & International Bar Association, 2003, p.508).
In African countries women have lacked an enough space in both political engagement and decision making process. Although the whole African constitutions and laws enshrined provision that recognize the right of women to equally participate in politics, African women is the most disadvantageous and marginalized groups in political arena. Because this the result of several underlined and perceptible factors. One of the most remarkable factors was the African customary and traditional laws which were based on the patriarchy supremacy (Abdo & Abegaz, 2009). For example, the African traditional assembly leaders were male dominant; male has exercised the power of the law making, decision or policy making and leadership of the African society traditionally and even religiously. Women had neither decision nor had the right to sit and speak or vote at the assembly.
The ignorance of the African culture in women’s role of traditional leadership was hampered the current political participation and decision making involvements of the most African women, though many African nations made affirmative action’s to enabled women’s equal participation in politics. According Quadri Nigeria (and other African countries) lives in a patriarchy society where the women’s place is said to be in the kitchen. She can’t go against the wish of her husband. And within political groups, the woman is seen as a threat that must not be allowed to thrive (Charles & Tayo, n.d).
In Ethiopia for example the participation of women in Regional State Councils is very low. The Percentage female members in Regional State Councils in Ethiopia are only 27.61%. While when we are looking in regional wise, the Nigeria region women are made 3.27% of the total (Adamu &Mekonnen, 2009).
The challenges of political participation and decision making of Nigeria women are same as those faced the rest of the African women as mention above. For example,Nigeria traditional leadership was dominated by the male elders. Women have no room in clan-based politics, and they cannot represent their clans. As you go back to historical practices, you can see that women’s business was to care of her husband and children.