Equality commission says gender quotas necessary to break status quo, youth council differs

NCPE welcomes gender quotas bill • Kunsill Nazzjonali Zgħazagħ claims quoats undermine genuine efforts to ensure representation 

Updated at 1:15 pm with Arnold Cassola reaction 

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) has welcomed the proposed gender quotas Bill to increase female representation in parliament, saying it would address Malta’s severe and persistent underrepresentation of women in the political sphere.

“For decades, Malta has consistently lagged behind other countries when it comes to gender balance in Parliament as evidenced by the European Institute for Gender Equality’s 2020 Gender Equality Index and the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report. The latest 2020 data show that women’s representation in the Maltese Parliament stood at a mere 13.4% compared to the European (EU 28) average of 32.8%,” the commission said.

The NCPE said positive measures were “clearly necessary to break the status quo and address gender inequalities stemming from historical and structural barriers experienced by women in society. The implementation of the proposed measures will be instrumental towards the strengthening of a democratic society with the equal participation of women and men in the highest national decision-making institution.”

On the other hand, the national council of youth organisations has said a gender corrective mechanism that will introduce quotas for female MPs was not enough to overcome institutionalised the discrimination that is preventing a representative parliament.

The Kunsill Nazzjonali Zgħazagħ (KNZ) said quotas would undermine genuine efforts to ensure representation by facilitating the perception that female politicians are in need of help to get elected “more so than their male counterparts, thus allowing for untrue and damaging rhetoric on gender inequality to pervade Maltese thought.”

“Local female political talent has made waves in European institutions, proving that such politicians are not in need of mechanisms which, while potentially helpful in increasing statistical representation in the short term, will damage the credibility of those elected in the long term,” the KNZ said.

The constitutional and legal changes would allow the number of MPs from the underrepresented sex to be increased by a maximum of 12 after the electoral process is concluded.

KNZ claimed getting a seat through quotas would lead to “an attack by the media and the public” that would discourage women from contesting due to the lack of merit associated with the role, or causing excess pressure on those who contest to prove they are deserving on their position.

It added that quotas for women in the House would not change voter mentality or encourage them to focus on the competence of candidates when casting the vote, rather than their gender. “Efforts to increase diverse representation in Parliament should focus on encouraging more people to contest elections and improving civic education on how voters should select their preferred candidates,” KNZ said.

Big parties tweaking law in their favour – Arnold Cassola 

Independent candidate Arnold Cassola has slammed the big political parties for “tweaking” the law in their favour. 

Cassola said that while he is favour of the proposed mechanism, it favours women politicians contesting on the ticket of either the PN or the PL. 

“Basically, if a PL or PN woman candidate gets 200 votes she will be co-opted, but if a third party or Independent woman candidate gets 400 votes, she will not be elected,” he said. 

Calling it the “biggest electoral fraud”, the independent candidate criticised women organisations for “accepting this humiliating submission”.

“All persons who respect Maltese women's dignity should be protesting loudly against this swindle at the expense of non-PL and PN women candidates,” he said.