GRTU against gender quotas: ‘demeaning’ to women to be token MPs

Small business chamber GRTU says women need to see improvements in the conditions of MPs if they are to consider entering politics

GRTU chief executive Abigail Mamo (left)
GRTU chief executive Abigail Mamo (left)

The small business chamber GRTU has come out against a proposal for gender quotas to increase the number of female MPs in the House of Representatives

Describing the proposals as “not the way forward for females interested in politics”, the GRTU said the gender corrective mechanism would lead to the appearance of equality, when the real hurdle facing women were MPs’ salaries.

“The gender corrective mechanism is not what females or anyone else interested in politics needs. What is needed is a real chance to make this opportunity a reality. Current conditions for MPs force them to dedicate their life to politics and setting aside full-time career aspirations and their families,” the GRTU said.

“This is the real hurdle keeping not just women but all valid individuals that want to choose to be active and present in their families and pursue a career that will help them not to struggle financially. It is inhumane to ask from our MPs to stay at work because their pay at Parliament just cannot sustain them, then, after work hours, be an MP and dedicate him/herself to politics and then also be an active parent.”

In a statement issued on Saturday, the last day of the consultation period for the government’s proposed gender mechanism, the GRTU said that it welcomed the consultation paper.

GRTU CEO Abigail Mamo said women were usually the primary carers in their family, which made choosing a life where they would be away from their home most of the time more difficult. “This problem affects women mostly because traditionally they are the primary care givers and that is a reality. Therefore, choosing a life where they have to be most of the time away from their family is of course harder. What will the gender corrective mechanism fix in this regard?”

Achieving a gender balance “cosmetically” through a corrective mechanism was not what women in society deserve, she said.

Instead it said MPs’ remuneration should reflect their responsibility, while parents required that the hours of Parliament reflect their obligations and to have child-minding support introduced.

“The problem is not the voter. The gender corrective mechanism will be applied to correct voters’ choice when the voter is not really biased against women. Statistics show amply that voters vote for women. In the last general election voters voted for women in almost the same proportion they voted for men. 19% of all men on the ballot paper and 14% of all women on the ballot paper were elected.

“If one had to look into greater detail in the numbers, the discrepancy is less than 5%. The situation is markedly different with the members for the European Parliament elections. In the last two EP elections the voter choice for women surpass greatly the choice of males; by 20% in the latest EP election. Where is this big discrepancy that will necessitate doctoring the composition of our parliament?” the GRTU said.

Mamo said there was “nothing more demeaning than being the token female”, pointing to her own experience.

“I work in what was traditionally a male dominated environment that today has changed a lot in this sense. I am in my position based on merit and have had to prove myself like anyone occupying such positions. I cannot imagine what it would have been like for me personally to be placed in my position just for being female,” she said.

“Apart from feeling ridiculed I would have had a tough time proving my worth and changing people's perception of me that I am not just female but also worthy in occupying my position. I am no exception, I am only proof that the society we live in has changed and women are not prejudiced as they used to be in the past.”

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