Following several public hearings, the Senate has passed “The Affirmative Action for Equitable Participation and Representation Act of 2016” which will give women, youth and the disabled special political, elective, and Legislative preferences.
According to the Act, which was passionately lobbied for by female Senators Geraldine Doe-Sherif, Jewel Howard Taylor and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, “twenty-one (21) Special Legislative Constituencies are established within the Republic of Liberia for which additional twenty-one (21) members of the House of Representatives shall be elected, beginning with the 2017 Presidential and General Elections.”
Individuals seeking for election to the House of Representatives within the Special Legislative Constituencies, according to this Act, “shall be subject to the eligibility criteria for those positions as set forth in the Constitution and the Election Laws of Liberia; and, once elected, shall enjoy the tenure, rights, powers, privileges and benefits accorded Members of the House of Representatives as enshrined in the Constitution, Statutes and Laws of Liberia.”
The Act stipulates that 15 of the Special Legislative Constituencies are exclusively allotted to women, with one constituency in each county while the three constituencies allotted to youths, will include one female representative.
The final three constituencies, according to the Act, “are exclusively allotted to Liberians with disabilities, consistent with Section 9 of the 2005 Act creating the National Commission on Disability, while one of the elected Representatives of the Persons with Disabilities shall be a female.”
The Act gives the National Elections Commission (NEC) the responsibility for the organization, supervision and conduct of the election of Representatives for the twenty-one Special Legislative Constituencies, which is consistent with its pre-existing statutory mandate.
“NEC shall, therefore, among other duties, upon the passage of this law, formulate the requisite procedures and guidelines to ensure a free, fair and transparent process governing the elections described in sections 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4 of this Act,” it said.
Election of Representatives for the 15 Special Legislative Constituencies exclusively allotted to women shall be held during the same time as the Presidential and General Elections.
Under the auspices, direction and supervision of NEC, elections for the three Special Legislative Constituencies for the youth and persons living with disabilities in Liberia, “shall be held at separate Special National Convocations of Liberian youth and persons living with disabilities delegates from all counties not later than thirty (30) days following the holding of Presidential and General Elections in the country.”
For delegates to the Special National Convocation of either the Youth or Persons Living with Disabilities, the Act explained that they shall be chosen from each county based on a formula to be developed by NEC in consultation with Statutory Youth Organizations and Statutory Organizations
of Persons Living with Disabilities to ensure fairness and cross-sectional representation; while official announcement of the results for the elections described in sections 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4 shall be made at the same time as the General and Presidential Elections.
It may be recalled that during the last hearing on the Affirmative Action for Equitable Participation in the Chamber of the Senate, Mr. Beyan Kota, presenting a paper on behalf of the disabled, noted that the affirmative action legislation is the recognition in law of a great need for changing societal attitudes in order to include its marginalized citizens into the nation building process.
“The development of an affirmative action for equitable participation in representation in the House of Representatives is a sincere attempt to draw the disadvantaged and underprivileged sector of our society to the avenues of inclusion, which will help to increase understanding regarding the magnitude of exclusion which we have suffered throughout human history.
“And thus (it will) set into motion the legal framework for the inclusion of women, youth and people with disabilities in the national decision making process without discrimination and exclusion,” Mr. Kota, a visually impaired person and longtime head of the Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), said.
Hearings on the Act were held under the chairmanship of the Senate Committee on Gender, Women and Child Protection, Dr. Peter Coleman.
The Act is expected to arrive on the floor of the House of Representatives for concurrence and onward submission to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for approval and signing into handbills.