Malta gained its first representative government in 1887 under the British rule by means of a Council which was made up of a larger part of Maltese elected members. However, women’s suffrage was achieved 60 years later in 1947. Despite this, throughout history we have struggled to see a high participation of women in Maltese political parties which consequently has led to a very low rate of women being elected to Parliament. This significant lack of women in politics means that currently more than half of the population in Malta is currently not being represented in parliament.
The representation of women in a political system is a good evaluation of its assurance to democracy. This is why political representation is considered to be an important feminist concern despite the fact that its significance has not always been recognised.
Many would simply argue that if one had to vote for women, they would do so based on their own merits and that women do not need any help to get elected. I however, beg to differ to this notion as this argument simply does not suffice in its entirety. Does this imply that to date only few women were actually capable? Does this mean that currently only nine women are deserving enough to serve in parliament? Having failed to achieve equal representation naturally in over 70 years calls for a jump start.
The idea that not enough women candidates are elected because women do not vote for women is too simplistic an argument. When women are given the same space and opportunities that men are given, they are willing to come forward and they fare just as good. Therefore, the problem is due to the failure of political parties to recruit women candidates and in making sure that enough women are willing and encouraged to contest by making the political scenario an attractive environment.
The idea that not enough women candidates are elected because women do not vote for women is too simplistic.
The numbers to date are very worrying and something must be done. Education? Yes, well education has been in place for a long time but that didn’t really change much. Having temporary measures would ensure that more women are elected to parliament and this would serve as a change in the current mentality were women would have a chance to prove themselves and serve as role models to others.
Considering merit and qualifications? I do not think that we question certain people elected to parliament who most definitely fail the capability to serve there. We never question whether a man is deserving to be a politician – so why should we with women?
Addressing the issue of tax people’s money being used towards an increase in parliament. Well I’d much rather have my tax contribution going towards a more inclusive decision-making with more gender mainstreaming in the day-to-day decisions of the country.
Having said this, I do believe that such measures alone are not enough, and more support needs to be given for both men and women wanting to serve in parliament in general. We must continue working towards eliminating any elements of a patriarchal society together with any social barriers which expect women to fulfil other functions but not that of a political decision maker.
I for one want to see more women in parliament. I believe that women have got what it takes when given the chance and thus, I do not see anything wrong with having temporary measures aiding women to get there and earning people’s trust for future elections.
Let’s think beyond tokenism, this is a question of equity and justice.