Publication | Report/Paper

Women’s Reserved Seats in Bangladesh: A Systemic Analysis of Meaningful Representation

In Bangladesh, there is broad consensus that women’s political participation is necessary for both the democratic development of the country as well as women’s empowerment. Indeed, Bangladesh has demonstrated some success in increasing the number of elected female representatives over the years. To encourage women’s political representation, Bangladesh has instituted temporary special measures that reserve a certain number of seats for women at all levels of government – national and sub-national.

There are currently four separate and different reserved seat systems for women at three levels of government in Bangladesh, and they produce different gender equality outcomes. This paper examines these systems in detail, provides an overview of gender-based challenges women elected representatives face in both general and reserved seats, and provides a summary of suggested improvements to the current systems as well as options for alternative systems.

The key issues detailed below are based on a desk review of domestic and international literature and relevant legislation, a close examination of the current reserved seat systems, as well as discussions with electoral stakeholders. It is hoped that this work will lead to further research (especially in the field), positively contribute to debate surrounding reserved seats and meaningful representation, and help legislators and practitioners design and adopt effective measures to ensure greater gender equality outcomes in elected government.