[WATCH] Women won’t replace men in Parliament, PL secretary says on quotas

The Labour Party’s executive secretary Lydia Abela said gender quotas wouldn’t be anti-democratic, nor would they see males replaced by females simply for the sake of equal representation

Nationalist MP Kristy Debono and Labour executive secretary Lydia Abela
Nationalist MP Kristy Debono and Labour executive secretary Lydia Abela

Labour Party executive secretary Lydia Abela has insisted that gender quotas for the Maltese parliament will not undermine democratic principles, and that women will not replace elected male MPs.

“Representation in parliament will still reflect the people’s vote. Women won’t take the place of men in politics,” she said. “After votes are counted and MPs are chosen, the law will come into force if there is a lack of balance.”

MaltaToday revealed last Sunday that the government will be distributing an increased number of female MPs equally between the Nationalist and Labour parties to reflect a better gender balance.

A consultation document will be released in the coming weeks.

Abela, speaking on TVM’s Xtra, said quotas would encourage female participation. Nationalist MP Kristy Debono agreed that quotas were the way forward.  “Leaving everything as it is, is not an option,” Debono said, who said the issue was how certain barriers can be removed for aspiring female politicians.

Debono stressed that the biggest challenge wasn’t chauvinism but the balance between family and political work. “Fewer women are elected because fewer women contest elections. The political structure is not family-friendly. The work of a politician is not limited to parliament; meetings go beyond 6pm.”

She added that the current administration was guilty of perpetuating the situation women were in. “Only 34% of women have been appointed to boards by this government. We can’t say one thing and do another. We should encourage the idea that women can work, that they can be exposed to politics, and not just through the cold shower of this quota legislation.”

Conversely, Abela argued that that the Labour Party was the only party that had promised to tackle the issue and that it had always strived for women to work and be economically independent.

“Women, by nature, have this instinct to take care of a family. It is inherent in a woman’s life. We have become used to the idea that women assume the role of a mother and nothing more,” Abela said.

She insisted that more needed to be done to ensure that women do not get trapped in this biological necessity.

“The Maltese population doesn’t vote for more males more than it does for women. It’s just that male candidates outnumber females ones. I just believe that political parties should encourage women further and that it should be easier for women to be enticed to enter the political area,” Debono countered.

Several women in politics, including Partit Demokratiku MP Marlene Farrugia, Labour MEP Marlene Mizzi and Nationalist Party MEP Roberta Metsola, have all spoken out against the idea of parliamentary quotas in the past.

Asked about how people could be convinced that such legislation would be beneficial, Abela noted that more women were elected to the European Parliament then men and it had performed just as well.

“The legislation would be a temporary measure. This means that we probably won’t have to apply this quota in ten years. Once balance has been reached by the legislation, you break the system, and wouldn’t need to keep invoking it because the system would have been fixed,” Abela said.

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