Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Afghanistan National Assembly: Promoting Gender Equity As A National Priority

A gender-sensitive parliament is one that is responsive to the needs and interests of both men and women in its structures, operations, methods and in its work. The term ‘gender’ refers to the social attributes associated with being male and female and the relationships between women, men, girls and boys in a given society. These attributes and relationships are socially constructed and are learned through socialization. The concept of gender also includes the expectations about the characteristics, aptitudes and likely behaviors of both women and men, and when applied to social analysis, reveals socially constructed roles. Sex and gender do not mean the same thing. While sex refers to biological differences, gender refers to social differences; as a result, they can be changed by the society, since gender identity, roles and relations are determined by it.
How Afghanistan can have a gender sensitive parliament
A gender-sensitive parliament is founded on the principle of gender equality – that is, that both men and women have an equal right to participate in its structures and processes, without discrimination and without recrimination. Parliaments that are gender-sensitive have no barriers to women’s full participation and set a positive example (or role model) to society at large. They are institutions which favor less aggressive parliamentary language and behavior; and gender-sensitive training programs for all MPs.
An Afghan gender sensitive parliament shall meet the basic premise of gender equality, where rules are accessible to all MPs, do not exclude, restrict or discriminate against women, and provide for gender neutral language. It shall be an organization that accepts the need to review all policies, laws and practices from a gender perspective, either through a dedicated committee on gender equality or by sharing that responsibility across all bodies of the parliament. It shall work in accordance with gender equality policies which provide direction for setting priorities against strategic and well-targeted interventions to achieve the goal of gender equality in the country.
In becoming gender-sensitive, Afghan parliament shall adopt the strategy of gender mainstreaming. Gender mainstreaming is the process of assessing and taking into account the impact on women and men of any planned action – including legislation, policies or programs – at all levels and in all spheres. Its ultimate goal is to achieve gender equality. It is understood as strategies that put gender issues at the center of broad policy and program decisions, institutional structures and resource allocation.
Mainstreaming gender equality in the work of Afghan parliament should contribute to effective implementation and oversight of legislation and policies that address the needs and interests of both men and women.
How Afghan Parliament can mainstream gender equality
Afghan parliament can mainstream gender equality by promoting gender equality and aiming at achieving it within society at large. To do so, it therefore shall mainstream gender throughout its work processes and outputs. Members of Parliament can assume the responsibility to mainstream gender in their everyday activities: legislating, overseeing and representing.
In legislating, Afghan MPs are required to draft and debate laws and policies, and review and approve the national budget. From a gender perspective, Afghan MPs shall initiate gender equality laws and institute gender-based analysis of all legislation; they shall ask questions about the effect of the proposed law on men and women during legislative debates; and shall consider whether taxation and the allocation of expenditure is equitable for men and women, or at least does not have a negative effect on either.
Afghan MPs always need to remember who the target public of a draft law is, and be aware of how that bill may affect different sub-groups of that public, most particularly women and men, girls and boys In carrying out their oversight responsibilities, Afghan MPs scrutinize government activity and expenditure through debates, questioning and inquiries. For example: during question time (or interpellation), shall seek to ask ministers about the effectiveness of their programs in terms of gender equality. Raising questions in this forum attaches publicity to an issue; they can send written questions to ministers or their departments when they require more substantial responses, including sex-disaggregated data; during budget debates, they can question Afghan ministers on public expenditure and its impact for women and men, girls and boys.
Assessments of the overall Afghan national Assembly members, especially the Wolesi Jirga members, show that low attendance, a preoccupation with presidential decrees and only a nominal oversight of the executive are the main characteristics of the current Afghan National Assembly members. Further, most of the MPs have failed to carry out their roles in many areas in including contributing to gender equality in the country. As a result, it is expected that the coming MPs shall better represent the Afghan citizens and especially contribute to gender equality as a national priority in the country.