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Papua New Guinea: Bill Seeks to Reserve Seats in Parliament for Women

(May 25, 2010) The Papua New Guinea Government has given notice of its intention to introduce a bill that would amend the Constitution to reserve 22 seats in Parliament for women. (Firmin Nanol, PNG to Reserve More Seats for Women in Parliament, RADIO AUSTRALIA NEWS, May 13, 2010, available at; Bill for Women in PNG Parliament, ISLANDS BUSINESS, May 14, 2010, available at

According to media reports, the gazette notice relating to the bill was published on April 23, 2010, and states that the proposed law aims to improve the equality, participation, and representation of women in Parliament and in provincial assemblies. The bill would mean that each of the 22 provinces would directly elect two people to Parliament – one seat for which both men and women could contest and one for which only women could contest. (Women Bill to Go Before PNG Parliament, PACIFIC ISLANDS NEWS ASSOCIATION, May 5, 2010, available at

The bill is being sponsored by Papua New Guinea's Minister for Community Affairs and only female Member of Parliament, Dame Carol Kidu. She said that she expects the bill to receive its first reading in late June or early July and that the both the leader of the Opposition and his deputy have indicated that they will support the bill. (Strong Support Claimed for PNG Women MPs, RADIO AUSTRALIA NEWS, May 21, 2010, available at Women's groups have begun to advocate for the proposed changes to be passed, but Dame Carol admits that passage of the bill will be difficult, saying:

So there is a lot happening with help from Unifem and people to help fund it. And the Council of Women network is starting to mobilise and so on. The women are feeling very positive. But to be frank, it's going to be very hard. We've got to get 83 votes to change the constitution. We had some very positive meetings with government yesterday but only a few members came, not enough members came. (PNG Campaign to Create 22 Parliament Seats for Women Kicks into Overdrive, RADIO NEW ZEALAND, May 14, 2010, available at

A controversial motion that sought to allow three women to be nominated to enter sessions of Parliament, through the use of an existing provision of the Constitution, was rejected in 2009 by a vote of 60-16, with 33 members deciding not to vote. (PNG Women in Parliament Vote Fails, STUFF.CO.NZ, Mar. 11, 2009, available at
; Bill on Women MPs in PNG Defeated, ISLANDS BUSINESS, Mar. 11, 2009, available at

Other countries in the region are considering, or have considered, similar measures aimed at increasing the representation of women. According to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, “the Pacific has the lowest number of women parliamentarians of any region in the world,” and four of the region's countries have no women at all in their national parliaments. (Press Release (47/10), Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Support for Introducing Reserved Seats in Tuvalu Parliament (May 13, 2010), available at