Malta’s politicians are currently debating a bill to tackle the poor representation of women in Parliament, by introducing gender quotas.
If passed, a gender corrective mechanism would kick if Parliament is composed of less than 40% of the “underrepresented sex” that is, women and gender-neutral candidates. It would add up to six seats for the Labour and Nationalist Party. If the third party were to be elected, it would also benefit from the quota.
Both the Labour and Nationalist parties are in favour of the proposal so far, but what do Malta’s young women in politics think?
Lovin Malta spoke to three politically-active women from Malta’s mainstream parties to know how they feel about historic parliamentary amendments, 100 years since Malta’s first self-government.
1. Rebekah Cilia – PN
Thirty-three-year-old PN Candidate Rebekah Cilia said gender quotas are a good first step but must be connected to other measures to break barriers to politics.
“No women should enter politics because she wants an ‘easy ride’ to Parliament. I believe gender quotas will help women, but they do not address the real barriers leading to the poor female representation in politics,” she said, adding she would have become a candidate with or without this kind of incentive.
Nonetheless, Cilia said, Malta is one of the worst countries for women’s visibility in politics, so the temporary measure will ensure women are at least represented. Still, she believes it won’t address structural gender inequalities.
“To address the dismal situation, a cultural and societal shift is required to tot tackle gender inequalities. Such a paradigm shift would see women being able to do whatever it is they want because they are empowered and not because it would be ‘easy’.
“This would result in a natural flow of women in politics. If gender quotas are introduced and no further changes are made, experience from other countries has shown us that they will fail.”
2. Naomi Cachia – PL
Naomi Cachia, a 26-year-old prospective candidate for the Labour Party and former President of Labour Youth Forum, agreed that the proposal could be a way of introducing fresh faces of the House of Representatives.
“It can be a way of introducing new faces to Parliament; women who, under the usual circumstances would find it much harder to be elected when pitted against Ministers and other longstanding MPs.”
However, she believes its effectiveness will depend on our political parties’ commitment to having a “decent” number of women on their ticket.
“Whether I can be one of those women, I cannot say at this point although I am open to that possibility, but nonetheless I am excited to witness this historic reform and get to see more women, (and more young women hopefully!), be elected and to start addressing the gender imbalance in parliament,” Cachia said.
3. Rachelle Deguara – ADZ
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Chairperson of ADZ, Rachelle Deguara, is sceptical about the intentions behind the bill.
“Although I agree that representation is important for all genders, I feel that the way Parliament is passing this bill is frankly vulgar,” she warned.
“These parties want gender representation to push their agenda and not for the betterment of women in Malta,” Deguara said.
This is because, as it stands, only candidates contesting on red or blue ballot sheets will benefit from the bill and not women running for a third party or as an independent.
Deguara suggests that quotas should be instated on political parties themselves, to ensure the ballot sheet has gender-balanced in the choice of candidates to vote for, which would also incentivise parties to recruit more women.
“If they truly want institutional power for women, they wouldn’t mind giving voice to independent candidates too,” she said.
What do you make of the gender quota bill?