The Liberian Senate Tuesday, March 4, voted unanimously to maintain a portion of the Electoral Reform Law that calls for gender equity representations by political parties, when submitting names of candidates for an election.
Except for Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morias, who argued that any attempt to approve that portion of the Electoral Reform Law would be in violation of Article 77 of the Constitution, and Senator Thomas Grupee, who promised to file a motion for reconsideration, both male and female Senators, who voted in favor of retaining the gender equality stipulation, debated passionately for what they believe is in keeping with democracy.
The Senate is currently debating the final draft of the 2013 proposed Electoral Reform Laws by the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Though the article in words is intended to benefit both male and female, the females who rage about having been politically marginalized for over a century, believe they now stand a shot at equal say in the electoral process.
According to Section 4.5 (1A) as approved by the Senate, “In submitting to the Commission, a list of its candidates for elective office, a political party or coalition should endeavor to ensure that the governing body and its list of candidates has no less than 30 percent of its members from each gender.”
The purpose of the 30 percent, according to the amended reform law, as explained under (1b), “is to support the move to gender equity in the representation of both genders in the governance of political parties and in the lists of candidates they present for every election.”
Maryland County Senator, John Ballout, who gave a passionate support for the equity gender reform, reminded his colleagues that that was not the first time that the Senate—whether in the 52nd or 53rd—has been faced with considering affirmative action.
“Let me remind you that during the 52nd Legislature when we were dealing with the threshold, we were faced with the challenge of affirmative action. We faced the challenge of setting a threshold that would satisfy both small and larger counties; let me remind you that this was a near impossible task. We are again engaged in a political debate, in the spirit of compromise—of affirmative action.”
Besides the threshold, another affirmative action according to the Maryland County lawmaker, was the County Development Fund (CDF); how would one justify giving Montserrado County US$200,000 and the same amount of money going to Sinoe County? “But again, we argued and arrived at a good decision.
Now, once again, we are faced with a political challenge of including more than 50 percent of our population in a political space that will give them the opportunity to make their contribution in this country…”
Other Senators followed the pattern of argument by Senator Ballout, though some had reservations over the words “should endeavor to ensure” that they thought should read; “shall ensure that.”
Bong County Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, Chair on the Senate committee on Autonomous Commission and Agencies, who is chairing the current debate, thanked her colleagues for mustering the political will to vote and maintain the gender equity portion the Elections Laws.
The debate was witnessed by a cross-section of women and school girls who hugged the Senators and each other, for an important political step forward.