ALICIA WALLACE: Still not enough but the women in Parliament have a real job to do

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September 22, 2021

The general election came last week and brought many challenges with it, some of them noted by the election observers. There was not, in any of the reports thus far, enough attention on the disenfranchisement of voters. Many young people did not register to vote before the election date was announced as they were under the impression the election would be held in May 2022. People displaced from Abaco and Grand Bahama who intend to return home were unable to vote in their current islands of residence.

People were locked out of this important process — one many incorrectly believe is the only opportunity for Bahamians to have a say and participate in governance. Many people did not vote because they could not be sure it would safe to do so in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after it was announced quarantined people would be allowed to vote in person. This should not be glossed over, especially when we had the lowest voter turnout in our modern history. Voter turnout is usually around 90 percent, but this time around, it tanked to 68 percent. Contrary to what some may posit, this was not simply disinterest in choosing the lesser of two evils, but inability to vote and concerns about COVID-19. Many decided that things would go on in much the same way as before, so why risk it? As low as voter turnout was, we now have a new administration.

Seven of the 39 parliamentarians are women. This is directly connected to the the Progressive Liberal Party and the Free National Movement each choosing to have seven women on their slates. Much like 2017, if the winning party had more women as candidates, we would have had a higher proportion of women in Parliament. It simply has not been made a priority, and that is to our detriment.

This number, seven (out of 39), is being celebrated by some as a great feat. In 2017, 13 percent of the parliamentarians were women, so the current 18 percent is an increase over the last time. In 2002, however, parliament was 20 percent women. In 1997, it was 15 percent women. We have gone up and down, and we have yet to reach gender parity in parliament. In fact, we are still a long way off from the 30 percent target set by various regional and international mechanisms. In addition to the failure to reach the numbers — a result of the failure of both political parties to commit to gender equality — we had to contend with horrendous representation by two people in particular who made outrageous statements condoning violence against women.

We need more women in parliament; more than that, we need proper representation by women who understand gender, care about women and are committed to the work to promote, protect and expand women’s rights.

Now that we have seven women in parliament, we need to know their position on human rights issues. We do not need women who think marital rape is a private issue. We do not need women telling anecdotes in attempts to excuse violence against women under any circumstances. We do not need women impeding progress by refusing to do their jobs and/or preventing other people from doing theirs. We do not need women who are unwilling to acknowledge all women as women and all women’s experiences as relevant and core to the work they have been elected, and in some cases appointed, to do.

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News date : 09/22/2021    Category : Tribune Stories

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