Tuesday, 23 June 2009 7:00 AM

Government Caucus Drops Ten Reserved Seats Proposal

In what appears to be a strong push by conservatives within the current government, Caucus has decided to drop the Temporary Special Measures, TSM, seeking ten reserved seats for women in parliament.

The SIBC reports that TSM Working Group met with Prime Minister Dr Derek Sikua last week and "he had informed them of the Caucus final decision to drop the proposal to get the additional reserved seats."

Prime Minister Sikua also informed the Working Group that the only compromise Caucus has made in terms of giving an opening for women parliamentarians is to leave the ten percent women quota in the political party integrity bill.

The Working Group is yet to receive official feedback from Caucus on the decision but have accepted Prime Minister Sikua's announcement "as confirmation."

Meanwhile, Chairperson of the TSM Working Group and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs, Ethel Sigimanu says "this is not the end of the Temporary Special Measures campaign."

The concept of establishing ten reserved seats for women in parliament is not unique to the Solomon Islands. Reserved seats are but one of a number of different quota methods used to ensure that women are represented in parliament.

Countries where quotas have been put in place by way of a national legislation include the following:

In Uganda, a parliamentary seat from each of the 39 districts is reserved for women, resulting in an increase in women's political representation.

In Argentina, the electoral law establishes a compulsory 30 per cent quota for women candidates for elective posts. This rule has increased women's representation in the Argentinean Chamber of Deputies considerably.

In India, the 74th amendment requires that 33 percent of the seats in local municipal bodies are reserved for women. The policy of reservation, as well as of quotas, is a well-known, and much disputed, measure in Indian politics.

Other countries to mandate some form of parliamentary representation for women include Bangladesh (30 seats out of 330), Eritrea (10 seats out of 105), and Tanzania (15 seats out of 255).

In the Solomon Islands the real challenges for the TSM Working Group is to convince the conservatives within government circles, this in itself is a huge ask. It may require some tact and not create a potential "us" against "them" environment.

Mrs Sigimanu, Chair of the TCM Working Group, says their meetings will continue despite what appears to be a major setback. "The group's meeting yesterday afternoon was to look at new strategies to lead their work in how best to get to the ten reserved seats."


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