- Written by Dr Fiona Hukula Dr Fiona Hukula
The repeated references to Parliament as a ‘Hausman’ during the recent widely broadcasted Parliament session amplified the glaring lack of women’s representation in the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Parliament.
It is 45 years since the Constitutional Planning Committee inserted equal status and opportunity for women as part of the equality and participation goal. Have we progressed towards achieving this goal? Yes, in many ways PNG women have made significant contributions to the social and political life of the country. However in terms of politics, the inconsistent and minimal numbers of women entering national Parliament is still a challenge.
Goal number two of the National Goals and Directive Principles emphasises equal participation of all citizens in different spheres of life, including political life. The need for women’s representation is also enshrined in the Constitutional Planning Committee Report 1974, point fifty-nine which states that:
“We have also emphasised the importance of women being able to make their full contribution to the welfare of the country, on an equal footing with men. In recent years women have played a significantly greater part in the country's national life - in politics, in business, in social and cultural activities. But more effort should be made by government to hasten this development. Obstacles to educational and other opportunities which face women at present should be removed, and insofar as it is within the power of the Government to do so, the difficulties facing women who wish to involve themselves in the affairs of the nation should be reduced.”
Repeated calls have been made for Temporary Special Measures(TSMs) for women
Temporary Special Measures are utilised all over the world to accelerate and improve as well as overcome structural barriers that inhibit women’s political representation.
Over the years there have been calls for TSMs to enable women to participate at the highest level of decision making in the country. These calls are based on the known challenges that women candidates face in terms of lack of political party support, resource constraints and prevalent cultural and social views of women’s role in Parliament.
Previous attempts (2009, 2012) to introduce TSMs on the floor of parliament did not receive the necessary political support. In 2018, the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) was directed to review the Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections and Related Laws. Terms of Reference four of the review focuses on women and special interest group representation in Parliament. It is hoped that when the CLRC presents its report to Parliament, careful consideration will be given to terms of reference four as this is an opportune time for Parliament to revisit and reconsider TSMs for women.
Women’s representation in Parliament is essentially about leadership and the need for gender balance in political representation. It is necessary for the PNG Parliament to be made up of both men and women leaders who will represent the interests and diversity of citizens. Having women in Parliament provides that balance. Therefore, it is important for the new PNG Government to consider TSMs as a potential way to address the lack of women in Parliament.