PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Fears PNG will have no Female MPs

Monday, July 2, 2012
World News Australia
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Papua New Guinea enters its second week of elections, but with the only female MP in PNG retiring, there are fears no woman will be elected in her place.

Of the more than 3000 candidate, only 135 are women, a PNG record.

But outgoing Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu, argues that while women have equal opportunity to run, a lack of access to funding means they don't have equal opportunity to win.

She says it's especially important to see ethnic Papua New Guinean women take her place.

“Some of colleagues actually said to me, ‘We don't mind you being here, but we don't want our own women here.' And I find that really offensive,” Ms Kidu said.

She fears that without the reserved seats, no woman – or too few – will be elected this time round.

Ms Kidu was the only woman in the last Parliament and says she hit brick walls trying to fight for gender equality on her own. She sponsored a bill to reserve 22 seats for female members.

The landmark bill cleared its first hurdle when enough MPs backed a constitutional amendment. But the enabling legislation required an absolute majority and failed to pass before this election.

The feud between Sir Michael Somare and Prime Minister Peter O'Neill may have been partly to blame.

”His team refused to come and vote on the bills that we were trying to pass which would have got women seats in the floor of the Parliament,” Mr O'Neill said of Mr Somare.

But Mr Somare says it wasn't his fault.

“They decided not to pass it because most men are male chauvinists,” he said. “They would not even entertain women representation in parliament.”

Some want women in parliament, but want them to win on their own merit.

"If you're going to be given a specific seat, then I'm not sure how much the people of your constituency will respect or follow or have faith in your leadership," Claire Kuomo, environmental activist.