Mauritius: A giant step, local government bill which guarantees a gender quota goes through parliament

Mauritius: A giant step, local government bill which guarantees a gender quota goes through parliament

Date: December 16, 2011
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The presentation of the New Local Government (LGB) Bill marks a revolutionary step in the history of the Mauritius. In order to push the Bill through, the Constitution has had to be amended to allow for positive discrimination, as advocated in the New Local Government Bill. Parliament reached a consensus after the opposition supported the amendment of the Constitution.

The Bill states that there should be “a minimum number of candidates for election to local authorities to be of a particular sex on a local authority.” Political leaders are thus obliged to field a minimum of one-third of candidates of either sex for the general municipal elections. The same principle shall apply to the village council elections. The new Bill represents a milestone in the quest to achieve gender balance. It requires that at least one third of the candidates must be women, which is a big step towards a more egalitarian society.

For by-elections, the zip system will apply to ensure a fair representation of male and female candidates. The so-called zip system proposes a man-woman-man-woman distribution on all lists for by-elections.

There is more to come as the Prime Minister has announced that there shall soon be major electoral reforms for the general elections thatwill radically change the electoral system for the next parliamentary elections. This is proof that the long struggle of feminists to break down barriers to women participation in politics is starting to yield results.

A true democracy cannot exist when 52% of the population, women, is not adequately represented in political decision-making processes. When democracy is affected, all citizens suffer. Women currently account for only 6.4% at local government level and a mere 18.8% at parliamentary level; a shame for a country which is otherwise doing very well in other areas as in relation to gender.

The SADC Gender and Development Index (SGDI) initiated this year by the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance shows that Mauritius is not doing badly in terms of where it needs to be by 2015 in terms of achieving gender equality based on the 28 targets. At 71% of where it needs to be by 2015, the country ranks number five out of the fifteen SADC Countries.The citizens feel the country is doing well too posting 70% on the Citizen Score Card (CSC). This places Mauritius at number three after Namibia and South Africa in terms of the CSC rankings.

The SGDI is basket of empirically based scores that can be used to assess how governments are performing by sector based on 23 indicators across six sectors: education, governance, economy, media, sexual reproductive rights and HIV and AIDS. While the SGDI is based on objective weightings, the CSC is based on perceptions of how the country is performing. Citizens score their country during workshops, reference group meetings or other settings.

The threefold benefits of this innovative bill will not only enhance women participation at local level but it also sets a creative model for the region. Thenew Local Government Bill is a valuable tool in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which aims to achieve parity in all private and public spheres, including politics, by 2015. Now the country will be able to sign the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

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