Pacific leaders debate the value of temporary special measures to promote women


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10 March 2010

Fiji women need to be encouraged to take up active roles in politics. These were comments made by audience members at a public debate on whether temporary special measures are needed to get women into parliament.

The debate, led by Lord Tu’I’afitu, the Deputy speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga and Ms Priscilla Singh, a coordinator of Women in local government and a representative of the Commonwealth was held at the University of the South Pacific on Tuesday. The temporary measures included reserving seats in parliament that can only be contested by women and also introducing quotas for women to be members in political parties.

The panelists each spoke on the advantages and disadvantages of having temporary measures to get women into parliament. In speaking against the temporary measures Lord Tu’I’afitu said that if the temporary measure was put in place, it would promote discrimination towards women by men who do not get the same treatment. “The temporary measures will also place a higher premium on the gender of the person in parliament rather than the quality of the work they are doing for people” he added. 

Ms Priscilla Singh who spoke for the temporary measures said that quotas were necessary if the Pacific people were serious about building equal societies. “At Present I believe that the question should not be if we need quotas but rather they should be how we can implement them” said Singh Singh said that traditionally men and women have a shared decision making facility so it is only reasonable that each gender have good representation in parliament. In Pacific island countries, there is an average of 94.7 percent male members in parliament compared with 5.3 per cent for women.

[Fiji Live - Tevita Vuibau]

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