It’s 2019 and Malta is finally talking about the elephant in the room- the huge disparity between men and women in Parliament. It only took thirteen legislatures for everyone to agree that it is unacceptable that, general election after general election, women are disappointingly underrepresented. Yet, some are ready to wait for heaven knows how many more legislatures for statistics to change. I for one don’t think that patiently waiting for an intense cultural shift is an option.
I must be honest, in the past I was quite passive about this subject, perhaps because I was in denial. I was raised to believe that men and women are equal in every regard and as a result I refused to believe that the famous ‘glass ceiling’ was not an exaggeration but an actual reality, particularly for women who attempt to participate in politics and to be elected in Parliament.
Finding out that Malta’s percentage of female MPs has only risen by five percentage points in over 60 years and that when it comes to the rate of female parliamentarians Malta ranks 151st from 193 countries from all over the world was something of a reality check.
Given the slow speed with which the number of women in politics is growing, introducing positive measures to reach a gender balance in Parliament has become a necessity.
These measures have gained support all over the globe and have been proven to be effective in ‘fast-tracking’ women’s political representation to produce equality of results, not just equality of opportunity.
Of course any measure introduced should be a temporary one, which ceases to have effect once the population organically votes for enough female parliamentarians to make up at least 40% of the total composition of Parliament. Studies show that this shift has happened in jurisdictions which have already introduced positive measures.
Locally, this has been the case too. Back in the day, the Labour Party introduced a 1/3 women’s quota within its national executive and its local government section. However, this quota was quickly surpassed once the party delegates started electing more women than the quota required.
As has happened with practically every reform proposed in our country, introducing these positive measures will cause conflict, but as has also happened in almost every case, this conflict is only temporary. I’m quite sure that in a couple of years we will soon be asking ourselves why it took us so long to act.
There have been some commentators who mistakenly associated these positive measures with ‘incompetence’. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When have we ever questioned the competence of our male elected MPs? And if we have what have we done about it?
Competence, or lack of it, does not stop at the counting hall but should be assessed throughout the legislature. So how is a female MP who is elected through positive measures declared incompetent before she is even given a chance to prove herself in Parliament?
I have come across other comments stating that women elected through positive measures will spend their legislature justifying their position because of their gender. Am I wrong to believe that EVERY MP should constantly justify his position to make the best of his electorate’s trust? If positive measures bring an end to the current complacency in Parliament, then by all means, let’s go for it.
What the introduction of positive measures will actually do is increase the number of women working together in Parliament and its Committees which in turn will minimize the stress often experienced by token women.
Introducing positive measures in our electoral system will not discriminate, but will compensate for actual barriers that prevent us from our fair share of political seats.
We can speak of female empowerment from day till night, upload as many videos on the subject as one pleases but the situation isn’t going to fix itself.
The sooner we come to terms with this, the sooner our Parliament will reflect our electorate and cease to be a male dominated sector.
Keep in mind that equality isn’t just a women’s issue, it’s a human one. Therefore, I believe that by introducing positive measures which lead to a balanced representation in Parliament, we would actually be strengthening our democracy.
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Cover photo: Women protest against domestic violence outside Parliament. Photo: Lara Dimitrijevic (Facebook)