A Case Study of the Challenges Connected to Female Representation in the Democratization Process of Bhutan

Start date: 2 March, 2013 End date: 29 May, 2013 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A22237 Countries: Bhutan Institutions: Aalborg University (AAU), Denmark Grant recipient: Stine Lehm Skov Total grant: 18,000 DKK


Since 2008, Bhutan has undergone a transformation from being a well-established monarchy with deep roots in the Bhutanese history, culture and self-understanding, to being a flourishing democracy. According to Danida Bhutan is a success story with regards to the positive development and peaceful transition from monarchy to democracy (Danida’s annual report 2008: 65). However, the underrepresentation of women in politics has to be addressed in order for Bhutan to be recognized as a country with high standards for gender equality and democratic practice, and this is acknowledged in the Bhutanese Government’s National Plan of Action for Gender 2008-2013 in which it is written that: “[g]iven the recent transition of Bhutan from a monarchy to a Constitutional Democracy, more than ever there is a greater need to promote and respect basic democratic principles, which demand gender equality” (National Plan 2008: ix). For that reason, the Bhutanese government, along with a number of aid organizations, are focusing on the participation and representation of Bhutanese women in politics.

The thesis focuses on scrutinizing the barriers that make it difficult for women to run for candidacy and get elected in political elections in Bhutan. These barriers include social and cultural factors, the double work burden, educational disparities, the lack of mobility and access to information, barriers in the political sphere, financial barriers and the lack of a critical mass. The theoretical framework in this thesis is ‘critical mass theory’, but a discussion on the terms democracy and democratization is also included in order to provide the necessary theoretical foundation for the analysis. The thesis also examines what the Bhutanese government and Danida are doing in order to target the existing barriers preventing women’s political representation, and whether the two actors are successful in collaborating towards joint initiatives.

The thesis is based on data collected in Bhutan in 2013 from a large number of institutions and aid organizations such as Danida, UNDP, UNICEF and the Election Commission of Bhutan (ECB). Additionally, publications from the Bhutanese government have also been obtained and implemented within this thesis.