By SHIRLYN BELDEN
THE Equality and Participation Bill will be tabled in parliament today, The National reports.
Prime Minister Peter O'Neill yesterday said the reserved seats bill was a priority agenda item of government.
He told a National Council of Women gathering at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby that it was imperative the reserved seats bill was presented in parliament for debate and voted on as soon as possible.
O'Neill said the participation of women in parliament was an important issue that had remained outstanding.
"Since coming into office, our government has seen this as an important outstanding issue,'' he said.
"That is why we are recalling parliament to seriously commence the process of legislating to include women as equal partners in the highest decision-making arena."
Women had been pressing the government to reserve 25 seats for women in the Papua New Guinea parliament.
Acknowledging the previous government for accepting the bill, he said there was no clear reason why the item had not been debated as yet.
O'Neill said his government was prepared to make women's representation in parliament a reality.
He said participation of women in the PNG parliament was low compared to other nations in the Pacific.
"There is only one woman MP, which means that our statistics of female participation is 0.9%, a shocking indicator, clearly contradicting our Constitution and the various government development goals," he said.
"PNG is one of the only 12 countries to have 0.9 to zero per cent of women representation in parliament,"he said.
"We are rated as 136 out of 144 countries for having less than 1% of women in parliament.
"This is a shocking indication of our lack of real action to the commitments we have stated to our people in the Constitution and various development goals."
National Women Council president Scholla Kakas said women must have reserved seats in parliament.
"It is high time for women to have a place in parliament," she said.
"Recognise us as human beings and give us the political recognition, equality and justice for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans."
Representatives from women groups and councils in Papua, Momase, highlands and the New Guinea Islands regions gathered to lobby for the bill.
Parliament has been recalled today to debate several bills including the Equality and Participation Bill.