Fiji PM talks against GBV while some MPs blame women

Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre welcomes remarks by PM following extraordinary statements on GBV in parliament:

The Fiji Women’s Crisis welcomes the statement on violence against women by the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey overnight.

FWCC Coordinator Shamima Ali said: “We welcome Bainimarama’s statement on this global platform because it sends a strong message that violence against women will not be condoned.

“Violence against women and children in recent years has prompted national soul-searching and it is vital that our leaders speak out against the problem and also debunk the myths surrounding the dynamics of gender-based violence.

“The statement by the Prime Minister in Istanbul is confirmation that violence against women is an issue the government is serious about tackling.

“Mr Bainimarama rightly pointed out that the onus is never on a woman not to provoke her partner’s temper to avoid domestic violence. Nor should a woman be blamed for her rape because of what she was wearing.”

Mr Bainimarama stated that such thinking “provides men with an excuse to justify the unjustifiable and women to accept the unacceptable.”

Bainimarama’s comments come at a time when two national leaders in the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Jiko Luveni and a senior official of the Methodist Church, Reverend Iliesa Naivalu, have made statements that effectively put the blame on women for provoking their partners’ violence and for arousing men to rape because of how they dress and questioning whether women can “go and drink alcohol with men in the bushes.”

These archaic ideas surrounding violence against women have been shown to be false by global research, including the FWCC’s own major study titled ‘Somebody’s Life, Everybody’s Business’, which puts the spotlight on how prevalent, varied and widespread violence against women is across Fiji.

Last week, when the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Luveni was reported as saying that women should not provoke their husbands into violence, the local mainstream media largely ignored reporting the FWCC’s rebuttal about the dynamics of violence, including the statistics from the national survey, which clearly shows how massive the problem is.


Vanuatu pessimism before Jan 2016 election

This article from January 2016 preceded the election in which no women got into parliament. The article says that perhaps just 11 women were standing as candidates.

However, this seeming diversity masks the lack of representation of different demographic groupings within Parliament: women, young people, people with disability, religious minorities and other groups that are not part of the mostly male political elite are effectively excluded. The omission of a significant proportion of the population disadvantages Vanuatu’s national development, because their contributions and needs are left out of the political debate.
The final list of political candidates in the upcoming 2016 national election is yet to be announced, but already rumours are circulating that there will be fewer women candidates contesting this election than ever before – an informal count of candidate lists published to date suggests only 11 women candidates.
This is a worrying trend. Despite dedicated efforts over the years by the Vanuatu Department of Women’s Affairs and women’s groups, the active political participation of women remains an unfulfilled hope.

Image used in original article attributed to Vanuatu Department of Women's Affairs

Vanuatu opts for reserved seats for women

Radio New Zealand reports that Vanuatu a constitutional amendment is proposed to provide reserved seats for women in parliament.  This follows the January 2016 election which saw no women elected to parliament.

Vanuatu's Justice Minister says the Council of Ministers has approved a constitutional amendment to allow for reserved seats for women in Parliament.
Ronald Warsal says he expects a bill to amend the constitution to be ready for an upcoming sitting of Parliament, which is scheduled to begin on the June 10.
The Daily Post reports he made the announcement at a screening of the film,The Suffragettes, which recounts the story of British women's struggle to get the vote in the 20th century.

See also

From the ABC 

Vanuatu's Government says it will pass a constitutional amendment to reserve seats in Parliament for women, months after a national election in which none of the nine female candidates were successful. Justice Minister Ronald Warsal told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the Government believed direct action was needed and would introduce amendments as early as next month.
"Women have tried over the years [to win office]. In the last election, some women contested for political parties and some stood as independents ... but it's quite difficult," he said.
It has been over 10 years since we have had a woman in Parliament. It is clearly hard for women to win seats in Vanuatu.
Ronald Warsal, Vanuatu Justice Minister
Nine women stood as candidates in Vanuatu's national elections earlier this year but failed to win a seat. Mr Warsal said the Government had not yet determined how many seats will be reserved for women or whether they would be in addition to the Parliament's current 52 seats. But he hopes to finalise details before Parliament next sits on 10 June. "It has been over 10 years since we have had a woman in parliament," he said.

Update 23 May 2016

Tonga - promoting women in parliament

Tonga's government is hoping that the upcoming local body elections will usher in a new era of women participation in politics.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has been holding workshops across the islands to promote the idea of women standing in the June elections and also to impart confidence in their ability to be politicians.

Chief Executive Mary Bing-Fonua also invited New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa to take part in one of the meetings.

Ms Bing-Fonua told Koro Vaka'uta the government is looking at various ways to improve women's participation, including quotas, and they are exploring options used overseas.

Life in parliament

A detailed account of what it is like to be a female representative in parliament. With some interesting ideas on flexibility in a list-based system and being family friendly. The pointy end perhaps of juggling roles in the public eye.

Holly Walker writes:

As the Green Party's electoral reform spokes-person, I spent a lot of time thinking about MMP. The introduction of a proportional voting system in 1996 saw a rapid improvement in the percentage of women in Parliament, one of the strong arguments for retaining MMP at the 2011 referendum.
Yet after leaping from 21 per cent in 1993 to over 29 per cent in 1996, the proportion of women in Parliament has remained largely static for the last twenty years. Many politicians and academics have debated how to resolve this. Most of the solutions proffered encourage more individual women to put themselves forward, and challenge political parties to identify and foster more women candidates. To their credit, most parties are attempting to do this.
Ultimately, though, this approach requires individuals to put themselves and their families through the wringer of an election campaign and then, if successful, to subsume themselves to the sometimes absurd demands of a parliamentary career. For me, these included working from (at least) 8am until 10pm on sitting days; a punishing travel schedule; nights and weekends full of public events; being expected to accept phone calls from journalists at any time; conversations about welfare policy at the supermarket; bruising encounters in Question Time; being shouted at by angry members of the public; and having my body and clothes criticised online.

New Zealand MP helps support Tongan women to seek political office

Tongan women who wish to become candidates for district and town officer elections in June this year, yesterday learned from a visiting New Zealand member of parliament how they can work with the support of other women.

Manukau East Labour Party MP, Jenny Salesa held an open meeting in Nuku'alofa on Thursday, 14 April, inviting women who want to stand for election for local government and parliament.

Jenny motivated the women by sharing her experience when she started her political career and answered questions from about 30 attending.

She told the women they need strong supporters from the community they live in.

“It is hard work,” she said.

Jenny started out running for local government by going out door to door with her supporters.

Pacific Women’s Parliamentary Partnerships (PWPP) Forum held in Samoa

Samoa has recently held its first election since amending its constitution in 2013 to require at least ten percent of the seats in Parliament to be held by women. In a historical first for Samoa, a female Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, has been elected and ten percent of members of Parliament are women.

The forum seeks to enhance engagement between women in the region and support research into gender equality and creating gender sensitive parliaments. The forum also provides an opportunity for New Zealand parliamentarians to actively engage in building stronger legislatures in the Pacific and strengthen their understanding of the Pacific Region.

The programme has an overarching theme of the legislative base for the economic empowerment of women in the Pacific. Panel discussions will be held, with contributions from the New Zealand members who will share their experiences in the business and private sectors, in addition to discussing how members of Parliament can support women’s economic empowerment with strategic policies and legislation. Other sessions will focus on removing barriers to women’s employment, women’s access to finance, and targeted support to women entrepreneurs.