The introduction of historic new laws that aim to give women a greater say in the Papua New Guinea Parliament was today welcomed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Regional Office for the Pacific.
Changes to PNG's constitution should allow for the creation of 22 reserved seats for women in the country’s 109 seat legislature.
Matilda Bogner, regional representative of OHCHR’s Pacific office, said:“In a country where women are severely underrepresented at the national political decision making level and where they are widely discriminated against in many facets of life, dedicated seats in parliament for women are a step in the right direction for women's political participation.
"A stronger voice for women in parliament is vital for progressing gender equality in PNG. "Moving from having only one woman in Parliament to having a guarantee of 22 women represented will be crucial in shifting attitudes and should help to strengthen women's voices in national policies and legislation.”
“This is a historic development, which – quite appropriately – comes during the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence that commenced today.
"Gender-based violence is an important issue facing Papua New Guinea.
"It is hoped that more women in Parliament will help to speed up the urgently needed progress on this issue.”
The PNG parliament currently has one female MP and has had four in its 36-year history.
The country’s election laws needed to be amended to create the 22 seats, one for each province, which can only be contested by women.
The amendment required the support of two -thirds of Parliament.
Media reported that the amendment, which was supported by Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, was passed by 72 votes to two, with several members abstaining and some absent.
“UN OHCHR looks forward to seeing these seats in place before the upcoming general election in 2012.
"It is crucial for the women of Papua New Guinea to have their representation in the national Parliament set up before the next elections, as any delay would again deny these women their political voice at the national level,” said Ms Bogner.