22 Nov 2012

PNG women MPs defer support for reserved seats

3:49 pm on 22 November 2012

Papua New Guinea's three women MPs have ruled out supporting legislation for reserved seats for women.

And a prominent supporter of the legislation says the debate over women's seats may have served its purpose.

Megan Whelan has more.

Last year, parliament passed a bill to set up 22 reserved seats for women, but enabling legislation was not passed in time for this year's election, in which three women were elected to the 111 seat parliament.

The matter is still listed on Parliament's notice paper, and the government would have to specifically request it be removed.

Our correspondent in Papua New Guinea, Oseah Philemon, says talk about reserved seats has quieted down since the July election.

"There are prominent women leaders, like Dame Enny Moaitz, from Morobe province, the first female premier of a province, and she said that the election of the three women to parliament this time, when everyone thought it was going to be very very difficult for women, is a huge breakthrough for women, and she said that is the way to go."

One of the three women, The Sohe MP and Vice-Minister for Treasury, Delilah Gore, says the three women support the government, but would not vote for reserved seats.

We have to work harder and find a lot of women to get into the next election. And for three of us to get in is a good indication that Papua New Guinea women can make it to the parliament. The way I see it now, the three of us have got in to the Parliament, I think the people's way of thinking has changed, especially the women's way of thinking .

The former MP, Dame Carol Kidu, championed the initial legislation through parliament, and I asked Delilah Gore what she would say to her predecessor.

Dame Carol Kidu was the only woman parliamentarian at that time, and she was really trying her best to meet the requirements of the UNDP and a lot of the international community, to push a lot of women into the parliament, and that is why she was really pushing for the 22 reserved seats.

Dame Carol Kidu says the debate over the legislation has served its purpose.

Three is not enough. One was not enough, and to be quite frank, three is not enough either, and I think they will probably find that as time goes on, but maybe not. But when it comes to lobbying on issues, very contentious issues, if they start to lobby on contentious issues to do with women's health and things like that, and I don't know what their opinions are, you'd need a concerted effort to get some changes.

Dame Carol Kidu says she wonders if the three women would have been successful if there had not been a five-year debate over women's seats.

She says the three women's elections are an enormous achievement, but there's a lot of work yet to be done.

I didn't ever agree with affirmative election before I went into politics but as the reality of it all set in with me, I thought, no this is not good enough we've got to do something, the playing field is uneven. And we've got to work with women to help them prepare for elections better. The diagnostic work going on at present, the very preliminary stages of it, is very clearly showing that the majority of women did not prepare sufficiently.

Dame Carol Kidu says parliament could work towards other legislation, like party quotas for women.