Mauritius: Louis Hervé Aimée – Minister of Local Government & Outer Islands

Mauritius: Louis Hervé Aimée – Minister of Local Government & Outer Islands

Date: February 3, 2012
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The Republic of Mauritius has a lot to be proud of as a nation. It consistently does well in international surveys in various fields, usually coming out top in Africa. Earlier this month, it was voted the best island tourism destination in the world, and also featured in the top 10 worldwide in a list of economic freedom, coming ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom.

The country is one of the world’s oldest democracies, having an elected Parliament for over a hundred years, and also having local government of one form or another for over two hundred and fifty years.

Yet a domain in which Mauritius has always fared poorly is the representation of women in politics, notwithstanding that education and employment opportunities are equitably available to both sexes.

The new Local Government Act, passed in the Mauritian National Assembly last December, aims at redressing this discrepancy of women’s participation. While one alternative would have been to impose a specific quota for women candidates, the new legislation has adopted a gender-neutral approach by imposing a condition that at least one-third of all candidates standing for a political party in an electoral ward must be of a different sex.

Not only is this approach more elegant than the imposition of a quota, it also safeguards the possibility of a complete domination of women in politics at a later date, as the provision ensures that there will be at least one-third candidates who are men! The previous statement is not as far-fetched as it may seem, as in the last National Assembly elections, the leader of my party, the actual Prime Minister, created history by selecting only women candidates in one of the three-member constituencies.

There was very little objection from any quarter, be it religious or social, and certainly not political, as the opposition voted with the government in Parliament to ensure that a Constitutional amendment was passed guaranteeing the changes.

Though no similar provision exists so far at the national level, the forthcoming local government elections will see a three-fold rise in women candidates in the urban areas, and more than a five-fold increase in the rural areas. The total number of women candidates will increase from under five hundred nationwide to more than two thousand. Such an increase in the pool of women politicians should invariably bode well for further progression at the national level, with or without legislative amendment.


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