Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf delayed and treated with benign concern the passage into law of women related bills when she was President, according to Grand Kru County Senator and Senate Committee Chairperson on Gender, Dr. Peter Colman.
For the 12 years that she spent in power as head of state, Dr. Coleman said Madam Sirleaf should have exhausted her agenda on gender issues that are today being pushed by women’s groups.
Addressing a mock parliament organized by the Women’s Legislative Caucus, Dr. Coleman lamented that the former president had the power to act in the right direction on women’s issues but delayed.
The mock parliament was held to discuss the Affirmative Action and Domestic Violence Bills which are before the Liberian legislature for passage into law. However the bills have not gotten favorable responses from some members of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate.
Those expressing opposition to the Bills argued that giving women parity will encourage complacency. They contend that if former President Sirleaf and other women around the world could attain high positions of leadership on the local and world stage based on their own efforts, the present generation of women can do so as well.
Lawmakers supporting the Bills said that it was very important for those who are the people’s direct representatives to give their approval to the bills in order to provide a level playing field for women, girls and people living with disabilities in the country.
Other issues deliberated by the mock parliament included the abolition of female gender cutting or FGM and proposals for making domestic violence a criminal offense.
Among those attending the mock session were current members of the 54th legislature, former female lawmakers, rural and traditional women, students, the UN Women’s Country Representatives Marie Goreth Nizigama, Gender and Social Development Minister Williametta Tarr.
Madam Nizigama told the gathering that as an international women’s organization, UN Women is in full support of the passage of the Bills.
It is important for space to be given to women, to put them on par with their male counterparts, said Nizigama, adding that giving women space means that children have also been given space because women will make laws that will touch the lives of women, children and the general society.
She observed that the just ended elections featured several women candidates, but only a few made it to the Legislature to join the ranks of women who were already there.
Minister Tarr indicated that her entity is in full support of the Bills, but the issue of FGM will be looked into during the official hearing at the legislature.