What’s the best way to get women into Parlt?

The Constitutional and Law Reform Commission has been tasked to seek the public’s opinion on the subject of women in Parliament.

During the recent APEC Discussion Series at the Precinct entitled, ‘Women in Leadership’, the Commission’s secretary, Dr Eric Kwa, said his office has received the directive from PNG’s head of state.

The Constitutional and Law Reform Commission is interested in what PNG’s citizens think is the best way to get women into parliament.

For the first time in 25 years (since the 1992 election), no female has made up the 10th parliament, in spite of more female candidates being nominated for 2017 elections than ever before.

PNG is now one of only five countries in the world that have no female members of Parliament, alongside Yemen, Qatar, Micronesia and Vanuatu.

PNG is also below the global average of 23 percent female representation in Parliament.

During the APEC Discussion Series on women in leadership, secretary of the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission, Dr Eric Kwa, said the Government has agreed that more women need to be in Parliament.

“That’s a directive number 4; we want women in parliament in 2022,” he said. “We also want special interest groups to be included in Parliament in 2022.

“So I’ve been traveling the country, asking our people: ‘What is the best way to get our women into Parliament?’

“At the moment we have assigned this task to the National Research Institute to go out and enquire, bring in experts and give us advice.”

Kwa also touched on the subject of the 22 reserved seats for women in Parliament.

After many months of intense debates, consultations and lobbying, Parliament voted to allow the 22 reserved seats on November 22nd, 2011, under the Equality and Participation Bill.

“The fact is this, the Constitution of Papua New Guinea has some very unique features on how we reform laws in PNG,” explained Kwa.

“That’s set out in section 17, which tells us that this particular section will require a certain number of votes. So section 101, which talks about the members of Parliament, requires 55 votes prior to the 2012 elections, with Hela and Jiwaka coming in later.

“At the moment you need 56 votes to amend section 101 so we can be able to successfully get the 22 seats in on that count.”

Kwa said they were able to amend section 101 after receiving 72 votes, which enabled them to insert the 22 electorates for women.

“What we couldn’t get through was the amendment to the Organic Law on the National and Local-level Government Elections, which now requires 84 votes.

“Prime Minister Peter O’Neill at that time couldn’t muster the 84 votes.”

Kwa says the 22 seats are still available.

“We now have the opportunity to amend the Organic Law on the National and Local-level Government Elections, but I cannot guarantee you the 22.

“We need to hear from the rest of the people in Papua New Guinea; do they still want the 22? Do they want a smaller number?”

He says changes to the Constitution will depend on what the people say.

(Dr Eric Kwa)

Carmella Gware