Afghanistan Presidential Elections: Biometric System Impacted Low Rate of Afghan Women Voters

On the 28th of September, presidential elections took place in Afghanistan demonstrating failure in responding to the need of women voters.

Even though the women’s electoral participation since long has been a challenge for Afghan Election Management Bodies, the newly implemented anti-fraud measures have further impacted the scope of female votes, as justly was feared by women rights and other civil society organizations in Afghanistan.

The controversial anti-fraud measure requires a compulsory voter`s photo-take at a polling station. This issue has posed challenges to political parties and candidates in persuading women voters and their families to vote as most women in Afghanistan, observe strict purdah by covering themselves in public places. To be photographed by female polling staff would have not been a problem if there would be an appropriate presence of female polling staff. Prior to the election, the Election Commission stated that at least 1,450 of the nearly 30,000 polling stations employ no women. This had ignited the fury of eighteen women’s rights groups demanding

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) to withdraw this condition. Potential rural women voters found this is Un-Islamic and in contrast with customary practices to be photographed by men.

However, the general voter turnout was only around 20 percent, in a sharp contrast to the 60 percent of the previous presidential elections in 2014. Threats by the Taliban to attack polling stations were taken seriously by voters and Election Administration as more than 2000 Polling Stations remained unopened on Election Day.