SLF 2022 Whole House Committee yesterday passed a Motion for an Order for a Temporary Special Measures (TSM) for allocation of reserved seats in Parliament for women.
TSM are a set of positive or proactive affirmative action measures to narrow gender disparities, and promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. It is aimed at addressing the lack of women representation in Parliament.
26 SLF MPs voted and passed the Motion for an Order submitted into SLF 2022 by the Hon. Minister of Internal Affairs, Seini Vaifo’ou.
In the Motion for an Order, it noted that in 2008, 2010 and 2014 and 2021 general elections, no women were elected into Parliament.
From 1951 when women were given the right to vote, only 6 women MPs made it to Parliament and 5 were non-elected female MPs.
The SLF Motion for an Order points out this is a true testimony; it is a struggle for women in Tonga to get elected into Parliament.
Mixed reactions were raised during the debate in SLF Whole Committee, some argued gender balanced needs to be addressed in the Legislative Assembly and their voices makes a difference in political decision making. The opponents asserted that women have voting rights as it clearly stated in our Constitution and that they should be entering politics the same equal playing field with men. They also pointed out providing a Temporary Special Measures will prove that women do not have the power, potential and are not capable as men to make it into politics.
On Voting Age Petition tabled by SLF Tongatapu 6 MP, Salamasina Paasi, SLF Whole House Committee also passed a plea to Parliament to amend the law for lowering of national voting age from 21 to 18.
SLF MPs against it, do noted that youth aged 18 are not mentally matured enough to make good decisions for themselves. Arguments against lowering the voting age also pointed out, the 18-year-old teens will vote according to their parent’s preference. They also argued it is a foreign concept as Tonga celebrates a young adult turning 21 as the legal age.
Supporters of the petition pointed out teens reaching 18 are matured enough to vote. The youth ages 18-20 are Tongan citizens and have the right to vote. They argued the law provides that driving license is issued at 18 years of age and males at 16-year-old can own a piece of land. For that reason, they argued it is their rights as citizens of Tonga to participate in the election.
The outcome of debates and discussion on the Motion for an Order, Petition and Building Control Private Bill will be reported to a SLF Parliament’s session today chairs by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Lord Fakafanua.