Lack of candidates leading to low number of women MPs – Grech

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Posted by Bernard Grech on Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The main issue leading to a low number of women in Parliament is not voter preferences, but political parties fielding a small number of women candidates, Opposition Leader Bernard Grech said.

Grech was speaking during debate on a bill which would introduce a temporary mechanism which would seek to improve Parliament’s gender balance. The mechanism – which would expire after 20 years – would add up to 12 MPs of the under-represented sex so that it would account for 40% of MPs.

As Nationalist MP Hermann Schiavone had done in his own address, Grech noted that candidates of each gender were equally likely to be elected, but far more men than women contested.

Grech also highlighted a social issue – in Malta, many still felt that women were primarily responsible for the home and the family. He argued that if MPs become full-time, they would enjoy a better work-life balance, and more women would be encouraged to contest.

The opposition is still planning to back the bill – which requires the approval of two-thirds of MPs as it amends the Constitution – though it will be presenting amendments. It is seeking to ensure that the MPs who make it to Parliament through the mechanism can immediately be appointed to Cabinet.

But while it supported the law, Grech suggested that the government was seeking – unsuccessfully – to pull the rug from under the Opposition’s feet.

The same tactic, he argued, was being employed in the proposal to amend Malta’s divorce laws to do away with the requirement to be separated for 4 years before filing for divorce: possibly in light of Grech’s role as an anti-divorce campaigner in the run-up to the 2011 referendum.

Grech, who has since changed his position, said that he hoped that the government would not waste an opportunity to amend divorce laws just to do away with the 4-year wait. He expressed his hope that the government would listen to the experts and people in the field: himself included, as a family lawyer with more than 25 years’ experience.