Towards a gender-balanced Parliament

Photo: Parliament of RM

12 December 2015. In a world where notions like gender equality are being used that often, why don’t we have a Parliament with as many women MPs as men?

This question was answered by the first gender audit conducted with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of the "Improving the Quality of Moldovan Democracy through Parliamentary and Electoral Support" project and presented recently to the Parliament.

Highlights

  • Women currently hold 21.78% seats in the Parliament which is below the average 40% recommended by the Council of Europe.
  • According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), as at November 1, 2015 Moldova ranks 61st h out of 190 countries in terms of representation of women in Parliament.
  • Two out of five parliamentary factions are being chaired by women.
  • Three of the nine members of the Standing Bureau are women.
  • Since October 2015, four out of nine Standing Committees are being chaired by women, which is a premiere for Moldova.
  • Of the 12 Deputy Chairs of Standing Committees, only 1 is a woman MP.
  • Of the 9 Secretaries of Standing Committees, only 2 are women MPs.

Gender blind legislation

Shortcomings in the implementation of national legislation were found when it comes to promotion of women and support for gender equality. National electoral legislation does not contain temporary special measures or quotas to increase the representation of women in Parliament. However, there is a draft bill before the Standing Committee on Human Rights and Inter-Ethnic Relations which recommends the establishment of a quota.

The audit also revealed lack of gender policies in the Parliament and the Parliamentary Secretariat.

Every second Moldovan citizen is a woman, while one in four seats in the Parliament is held by a woman. How can one explain this discrepancy?

“Political Parties propose lists of candidates with few women,” Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Liliana Palihovici, notes.

The reason for this, according to the authors of the research, is lack of a legal provision of having gender balanced lists of candidates running for the Parliament.  Even where the lists of political parties contain 30% of women, the women are found at the back of the list.

The recommendations formulated by experts aim to help the Parliament eliminate shortcomings, thus adjusting not only legislation, but also treatment of women to the standards of 2015.

Soft portfolio for women

Women Members of Parliament largely lead “soft” portfolios, concludes the Gender audit. They deal with social issues, family, employment and education.  The three standing committees in charge of Economy, National Security and Agriculture have each one member woman, or none. The Committee on Foreign Affairs and European Integration is the exception with three women members, including the Chairperson.

“In my opinion, in a genuine democracy, men and women have equal chances and their career depends only on their effort, which is not necessarily the case in an emerging democracy. Unfortunately not always are professional and active woman being promoted,” the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament admitted.

Negative feminization

The Secretariat of the Parliament is dominated by women, who represent 2/3 of the staff. Gender audit revealed that this occurs due to modest salaries.

There is also need to have maternity/paternity leave addressed in the Regulations of the Parliament.

Towards a joint communication platform for women MPs - the establishment of a Cross Party Women’s Caucus

Why would one need such a Cross Party Women’s Caucus when we have so many mechanisms, working groups, etc.?

The research conducted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union shows that cross-party women’s caucuses enable women to strengthen their political impact and are efficient in promoting gender policies and a gender perspective in the legislation. A caucuses is a small ​group of ​people in a ​political ​party or ​organization who have a lot of ​influence, or who have ​similar​interests.

“The decision to create a common communication platform among women MPs was made to improve cooperation among all women MPs for the promotion of issues of interest for the society,” the Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Liliana Palihovici says.

Now, the Cross Party Women’s Caucus known as the Women’s Platform of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova consists of 21 women MPs. The Women’s Platform also has a Coordination Council which consists of 5 members, representing all Parliamentary Factions. The main objective of the caucus is to provide a forum for women MPs to discus and speak on critical issues affecting women in the country, regionally and internationally, across party lines

The Women’s Platform is focused on issues in the areas of education, health, social services, entrepreneurship, migration and demography, which require urgent resolution. Liliana Palihovici: “In order for us to have more socially, economically and politically active women, we must first create services and means to support families. At the end of the day, it is the only way to have a democratic and prosperous society”, Palihovici stressed.

Towards a more gender sensitive Parliament

The leadership of the Parliament seems open to implementing the Gender Equality Action Plan which was developed based on the recommendations of the Audit Report, and includes draft legislative amendments.

The Gender Audit was conducted with the support of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as part of the "Improving the Quality of Moldovan Democracy through Parliamentary and Electoral Support" project, financed by Sweden. This is the very first gender audit on the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova.

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