22 Apr 2010

Tongan women's advocate group says parliament changes will adversely affect women

8:06 am on 22 April 2010

While pro-democracy supporters in Tonga are celebrating the passing of reforms that will nearly double the number of elected MPs in parliament, one women's advocate says the nature of the changes made will adversely affect women.

Tonga is set for elections in November when 17 MPs will be popularly elected in a assembly of 26 after the last of a series of reforms were passed this week.

This includes single seat electorates instead of the present multi member seats and women's activist, Ofa kilevuka Guttenbeil Likiliki, of the Women's and Children's Crisis Centre, says the change won't give parliament a gender perspective.

"The way we live on Tonga, it's very territorial based. The smaller constituencies can and will pose territorial barriers for women, especially if the woman, the candidate, is married into that electorate. You know, all the barriers that will face her - people will be immediately questioning the validity of her standing as a candidate in that area. And because we are very territorially based it's an immediate disadvantage for women."

Ofa kilevuka Guttenbeil Likiliki says her organisation will now focus on helping women identify the right candidates.