PNG lawmakers to hold woman vote

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07 July 2009

PORT MORESBY, AAP - Papua New Guinea's parliament will hold another vote on whether three nominated women should be placed into the chamber in an effort to foster better gender representation.  Top of the government's agenda when parliament resumes on Tuesday is their motion that relies on a constitutional provision to allow unrepresented members of the community to enter sessions.  If successful, the women do not have voting rights nor can they debate but many in PNG see it as the first step in the long journey to equitable female representation in PNG.

PNG's Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu, the only female parliament member, has been the bid's driving force and is confident this time around it will get up.  "I am pleased with the behind the scenes work that different groups supporting affirmative action for women have been doing to get to the stage that we are at today," she said.  "Papua New Guinea is the first country in the world to establish a process that led to the vote that was taken in parliament last March for three women to be nominated to parliament as a temporary measure.  "While we did not get the numbers I was happy to see the support that was given by more than half the members."

The controversial bill split many in the male-dominated culture of PNG.  Some of those who want women in parliament couldn't agree with the model the government is pushing.  More than 30 members avoided turning up to the March session because they did not want to vote on what ended as 60 in favour and 13 against.  One member told AAP: "Why should they get placed, when I had to do all the hard work campaigning?"  Another said women "should be in the gardens or looking after family not politics".

PNG's Prime Minister Michael Somare urged the 88 members of his coalition government to support the vote this time around.  "It's about marginalised people," his spokeswoman said.  "The nominated women went through a very stringent process, one is endorsed by a church group whose size would strip that of most constituencies," she said.  The 21 members of the opposition will vote against it as it is "sugar coating the problem", a spokesman said.  "The government should amend the constitution so there are 20 seats open for only women to contest by 2012," he said.

[Fiji Times - AAP]

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