Interesting little tidbit in this excellent profile of Lady Carol Kidu, Papua New Guinea’s only female legislator, who is pushing a controversial bill to allocate a set percentage of parliamentary seats for women:
Kidu knows that if the bill fails then when she retires next year PNG will likely become the 10th nation in the world without a single elected female representative. Six of those would be Australia’s near neighbours in the Pacific, the others being Nauru, the Solomons, Micronesia, Palau and Tonga (where the King has installed one unelected woman in the Parliament).
Curious about the other four entires on that list, I tracked down the complete figures here. It’s not the easiest dataset to parse, in part because the table doesn’t mention which nations have quotas for female political participation. But there is plenty to chew over nonetheless, and not just the fact that the United States is tied with Turkmenistan. There are, in fact, several global powerhouses that rank far lower than the U.S., including Brazil and Japan (though, in the former case, a female president now reigns). And there are some mysteries at the top of the list, too, such as Seychelles, which doesn’t have an official quota system (though political parties there are aware of the need for more female candidates).
In Papua New Guinea, the opposition to Kidu’s bill basically boils down to a libertarian argument—that the government has no right to dictate the will of the people. But this ignores the fact that local votes are often controlled by power brokers such as tribal chiefs; to assume that the political playing field is level from the get-go is laughable. Quotas may seem heavy-handed, but sometimes extraordinary measures are necessary to break up what amount to power monopolies. And though feminizing Papua New Guinea’s national politics will not magically make the country’s problems disappear, it’s worth the experiment. Anything is better than maintaining the status quo.
(Image via Daniel Pilar)