UN hails passage of PNG women's bill


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29 November 2011

The United Nations says it welcomes moves in Papua New Guinea to give women greater representation in parliament, and has warned against delaying laws that will determine the number of female MPs after the 2012 election.

A representative for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights says last Wednesday's passage of the Equality and Participation Bill, which guarantees the creation of women's electorates in PNG, is a step in the right direction for the 36-year-old nation. PNG currently has one woman MP in its 109 seat parliament, Dame Carol Kidu.

“Moving from having only one woman in Parliament to having a guarantee of 22 women represented will be crucial in shifting attitudes and should help to strengthen women's voices in national policies and legislation,” OHCHR's Pacific representative Matilda Bogner said in a statement. “It is crucial for the women of Papua New Guinea to have their representation in the national parliament set up before the next elections, as any delay would again deny these women their political voice at the national level."

The Equality and Participation Bill passed last week guarantees only that up to 22 electorates will be reserved for women but laws have yet to be tabled in parliament determining the boundaries of the new seats. Without passage of those laws before 2012, the 22 women cannot run. The government has yet to schedule the two votes needed to determine the boundaries for electorates guaranteed to women.

Dame Carol said on Sunday that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill had said he would have the first part of the boundary laws tabled when parliament resumed on December 6, and she expected the second in April next year. However the Supreme Court of PNG is also expected to hand down its decision next week on whether the government of O'Neill is constitutionally legitimate, after his controversial August election on the floor of parliament.

“The political dynamics are going to become quite strange over the next few weeks with the court decision,” Dame Carol said.

[AAP - via PACNEWS-PINA]

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