Bahrain opposes election quotas for women

Voters cast their votes during parliamentary elections, at a polling station set up at the Seef Mall shopping centre in Manama November 22, 2014. Bahrainis voted on Saturday in elections boycotted by the Shi'ite Muslim opposition over accusations that constituency changes would still favour the Sunni Muslim majority represented by the ruling family. Some 419 candidates are running, 266 for parliament and 153 for municipal councils in the kingdom. REUTERS/Stringer (BAHRAIN - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS) - RTR4F5E1

Manama: A quota system for women violates Bahrain’s constitution and negatively affects women’s participation in public life, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council for women has said.

The government body is tasked with elevating the status of women politically, socially, and economically.

Such a system also breaches the provisions of the National Action Charter, Hala Al Ansari said, referring to the document that in 2001 set in motion a wide spectrum of political, social and economic reforms in Bahrain and was approved by 98.4 per cent of the people in a national referendum.

“Bahrain has progressed beyond the stages of ‘empowering women’ and Bahraini women have reached a stage where all the factors that allow them to participate spontaneously and naturally in public life are available,” Al Ansari said.

“In this new stage, women and men are equal in rights and duties. Women have the same opportunities as men and the only difference is the level of competence and aptitude in a full and equal partnership in the progress of the nation,” she was quoted by Bahraini daily Al Watan as saying on Tuesday.

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International indicators of the participation of women in different sectors are further evidence of the extent of Bahraini women’s progress in the labour market, board membership, entrepreneurship and business activities, she added.

“Bahraini women have a remarkable presence and outstanding contribution in the productivity sector, the executive, legislative and judicial branches and in diplomatic activities. They do not hesitate to enter promising areas of work as a large number of them are degree holders.”

Al Ansari said Bahraini women have earned the trust of the nation as representatives in the parliament and in municipal councils.

“They succeeded after they received the votes that enabled them to win in the parliamentary and municipal elections. A greater awareness of the significance of exercising voting rights has helped women win in elections,” she said.

However, Al Ansari insisted there should be no quota to boost the number of women in politics.

“A quota is not constitutional because it breaches the notion of full equality between citizens in rights and duties. At the same time, there are no obstacles to women getting involved in politics and public life that might warrant such a push,” she said.

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“Women’s access to decision-making positions has long been supported by the confidence and conviction of the society and it is not normal that we go back in our practices and adopt the quota system after the number of women exceeded 50 per cent in many workplaces. Public life, and specifically political activism, must be based on fair competitiveness and logical sustainability without the need to introduce temporary measures that restrict voters’ right to choose and make them deal with Bahraini women as a minority.”

Several studies have concluded that women who make it through the quota system are not necessarily the most experienced or the best-suited for the job, she added.

“Associations and civil society organisations have a critical role in supporting women to get elected and as such, they should activate programmes and boost community awareness about the significance of women’s participation in public life. They should highlight women’s success stories in this regard,” she said.

Source Credit: Gulf News

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