BEIRUT: Activists cried out against politicians backing a new draft electoral law Friday, saying women did not receive an acceptable quota for Parliament under the proposal and the country’s electoral system was being treated as a “man’s business.”
“While women are still completely absent from national politics in the country, the electoral reform laws being discussed are also keeping out the presence of women in the country’s day-to-day political life,” read a statement made by the Lebanese Council for Women and delivered at the Press Federation in Beirut.
The statements against the law came after Parliament formed a committee Thursday to try and agree on the final form of the country’s electoral law for the 2013 parliamentary elections. The current form of the law divides the country into 13 districts and holds the elections based on proportional representation.
Women would receive a 10 percent quota in the draft law.
The quota is not nearly high enough to meet international standards and is done in an ineffective manner, the women’s advocacy group said.
“The pressure by civil society groups led to the government’s approval of a 10 percent quota as a gift to women. But we believe that this percentage will not affect women’s participation in the upcoming elections at all, since this draft law requires 10 percent of women’s participation in the lists and not in the number of parliamentary seats,” the organization’s leaders said.
Many countries have set parliamentary quotas for women at 30 percent, a number that is also backed by international agreements on women’s rights.
The Lebanese Council for Women called on all Lebanese women to unite and demand their fair share of representation within parliament.
The issues of expatriate voting and a different proposal of smaller electoral districts by Christian groups have held the headlines of the electoral debate recently. Many politicians support allocating a number of seats to the expatriate vote, while March 14 Christian groups have discussed proposing an electoral law that would divide the country into 50 districts with a winner take all system.
Other details in the law such as the voting age and women’s representation are receiving heavy debate in civil society but have not gone far in Parliament.
“As a women’s movement we believe that influential Lebanese women are present in all the country’s sectors from administration to banks to the judiciary and the universities. But, unfortunately, the merits they have do not stand against the electoral laws that ensure who gets to parliament,” the group said. Eight-seven countries have adopted a quota to get women into Parliament.
The group said politicians have an obligation to ensure women’s representation under equality provisions in the constitution and the country’s participation in a number of women rights agreements requires them to as well.
A quota is meant to be a means for women to break through social barriers to become elected officials.
Many activists say that after women prove themselves in Parliament, they will have no problem securing an even higher percentage than is guaranteed to them.
“What the government is trying to do today through its new electoral law proposal – it’s trying to give Lebanese expatriates six parliamentary seats, but the government fails to ensure that even six seats are allocated for women,” the group said.
“The women’s quota we have been demanding is a temporary one and the sectarian quota that we had hoped would become a temporary one is still present in all the country’s sectors.”