‘21 Seats’ Bill Passage Uncertain in the House

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The last resort for the enactment of a draft law to establish 21 Special Legislative Constituencies for which additional 21 members of the House of Representatives shall be elected, is expected to be itemized in today’s agenda for deliberations, but may not receive full support, the Daily Observer has learnt.

Lawmakers who spoke under condition of anonymity, said the Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation Act violates the Constitution, especially Article 18.
Article 18 says: “All Liberian citizens shall have equal opportunity for work and employment regardless of sex, creed, religion, ethnic background, place of origin or political affiliation, and all shall be entitled to equal pay for equal work.”

The lawmakers argued that violation of the Constitution would compel a referendum, if the bill should be passed.

The Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation Act of 2016 provides 21 additional seats in the House for women, youth and persons living with disabilities.

The Senate unanimously passed the “Affirmative Action for Equal Participation and Representation Act of 2016” which was forwarded to the House of Representative for concurrence.

In Wednesday’s public hearing, Gender Minister Julia Duncan Cassell told the 28-member House Joint Committee that the Affirmative Action Bill for equal participation and representation of women in politics, the youth and persons living with disabilities requires the affirmative action legislation to elevate it to a level of equitable representation and participation in the governance process.

The House Joint Committee comprised of Gender, Judiciary, Good Governance and Election & Inauguration

The Gender Minister reminded the Legislature that Article 5 (a) of the Constitution empowers the Legislature to enact laws that promote the realization of social justice and increase citizens’ access to political and economic participation.

“There are international instruments to which Liberia is a signatory and has acceded to for the enactment of affirmative action legislation for the empowerment of women, youth and persons living with disabilities. ECOWAS and AU Protocols, CEDAW, CRPD, the Beijing Declaration, and the African Youth Charter are some of the international instruments supportive of affirmative action as a means of accelerating their participation in politics for adequate representation,” Min. Cassell said.

The National Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council, Madam Frances R. Deigh Greaves; the Vice President for the Association of Female Lawyers in Liberia (AFELL), Atty. Nadia S. Kamara; Mr. Daintowon Domah Payebaye, representing the disabled community; and Mr.

Amos Williams, Deputy Secretary General for Program at the Federation of Liberian Youths (FLY) are among Civil Society Organization (CSO) members, urging the Legislature to enact the Affirmative Action Bill.

The consultant for the Coalition of Caregivers and Advocates for the Elderly in Liberia and the Disabled Community, Mr. Sam Togba Slewion, also recommended that the Affirmative Action Bill should include the representation of older people.

The Affirmative Action Bill has suffered many setbacks and has been lingering in the Legislature since 2010, before it was recently passed by the Senate.

For the progress made by the Senate, the UN Women held a one-day consultative meeting with the media, the Women Legislative Caucus, Government Ministries, the disabled community and the public to create awareness and engage stakeholders before the bill was presented to the House of Representatives on Thursday.

“In 2010, when we brought about the passage of this bill, it was not easy to convince our male counterparts because they thought we were trying to unseat them, but we are over that now because of our regular consultations that made the issue clear to them,” said Senator Jewel H. Taylor of Bong County.

Senator Taylor, who also chairs the Women Legislative Caucus, noted that in meetings with women contestants, it was agreed that the elections will be determined on a single majority win.

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