Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu — Majority leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs (L) and Haruna Iddrisu, Minority Leader

Members of Parliament (MPs) have expressed varied views as to whether special seats should be reserved for women in Parliament.

Some of the legislators
felt there was the need for a space to be created for women to enter Parliament
without much hustle to bridge the huge gap between men and women.

But, others argued that
a level playing field for men and women should rather be encouraged.

Debate

The National Democratic
Congress (NDC) MP for Kumbungu set the tone for the debate last Wednesday when
he read a statement on underrepresentation of women in Parliament.

He urged the leadership
of the two major political parties in Ghana to address the problem of
inadequate representation of women in Parliament.

“The representation of
women in our Parliament is a problem this House has inherited. It is a problem
for Parliament, a problem for all the political parties and a national problem
that must not be swept under the carpet.”

“We stand the risk of
waking up one day with an all-male Parliament if we do not act. And that is
very scary. Others have taken action and succeeded,” he said.

Citing the Rwandan
Parliament as a case study, Mr Mubarak said as the first country in the world
with a female majority in Parliament, there were as many as 61.3 per cent for
the lower chamber and 38.5 per cent in the Senate in Rwanda.

Best examples

Mr Mubarak stressed the
need for the country to adopt the measures taken by Rwanda as well as countries
in Latin America where they had legalised gender quota for their parliaments.

“These countries use
political gender quota systems that work perfectly,” he said.

Mr Mubarak appealed to
the Speaker of Parliament not only to conduct research into why our female
counterparts did not put themselves up for public office but to send teams of
MPs such as the young Parliamentarian’s caucus and the Women caucus and even
leadership of Parliament to countries such as Norway which had the gender quota
systems since 1983, to Brazil, Bolivia, Rwanda, South Korea, Sweden, Denmark
and even the United Kingdom to learn about the gender quota system in selecting
female MPs and to see how Parliament could help itself and the political
parties to implement that policy.

“I believe that an increase
in number of female MPs would bring increased focus on issues affecting women
and children and as a proud father of two girls, Mr Speaker, I do want
tomorrow’s generation to look at this Parliament and say yes, these people
stood up for women empowerment and went beyond lip service and made things
happen,” he said.

Disagreements

In his contribution, the
NDC MP for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, called for reservation of
some safe seats for women to address the disparity.

“Let’s work on it and
let us insert within that bill quotas to be reserved for women. Then we will be
given practical manifestations; we’ll be showing commitment to the constitution
and the matter of gender balance”.

“The rate at which we
are going, we are racing to the bottom… We are supposed to be representatives
of the people. Are we really representing the people? Do we reflect the people?
Majority of our population are women, 51 per cent are women. Are we reflecting
that? So, Mr Speaker, we should demand the political parties take active steps
to include women, reserve seats in our strongholds for women so that women can
participate actively in the legislative process,” he said.

But the New Patriotic
Party (NPP) MP for Okaikoi Central, Mr Patrick Yaw Boamah, disagreed with that
position and argued that equal opportunities must be created for women and not
discriminate against men in their favour.

“We’ve had women who
have contested men and beaten them in elections squarely. It’s about conviction
and your interest in the business of politics. ..I share the views of my
colleagues but in this country, you have to be competitive in every
aspect,” he said.

More encouragement

Mr Boamah was of the
view that women must be encouraged to actively participate in politics rather
than pushing for the need to give them quota.

“There are various forms
of supporting women to aspire for offices and I believe that just asking for
some sub-ground, I don’t think even the women will accept it because they
believe that they have come of age and they can fight and compete in every
election.”

“It is not only in
Parliament that you would want to see women progress politically. There are
other equally important positions which they have occupied. We have to
encourage them. We just will not want to let them feel that you are coming to
this business because we feel you are inferior. They are not. Some are way
better than us men,” he said.

The First Deputy Speaker
of Parliament, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, said amending the 1992 Constitution would
be a starting point in getting more women into Parliament.

Source: Graphic.com