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Can we at least talk about women’s political participation?

14 Jul

Last year, I was involved in promoting women’s political participation during the elections in Sierra Leone and Ghana. Women’s representation in parliament in both countries is low, in Sierra Leone it dropped to 12.4% following the election and in Ghana it raised marginally to 10.9%. In both countries, the belief that women are not suited to politics has created many barriers to women’s political participation. Women are marginalised from political party networks which often act as ‘old boys’ clubs; there is frequent verbal (and sometimes physical) violence against female candidates; and the often inflexible demands of political life make it difficult for many women to balance a career in politics with childcare responsibilities.

Before working on this, I had no idea what the rate of women’s representation in parliament was in New Zealand so I looked it up one day. It was 32%. That’s low I thought, someone should talk about it. Then I forgot about it again until it was brought up a week ago when it became public that a proposal from Labour’s national council to use affirmative action policies to increase the number of female Labour MPs would be voted on at the party’s annual conference in November. As part of the proposal, a target would be set to have women make up 45 % of Labour MPs by 2014 and 50 % by 2017. Along with this, a list moderating committee would ensure the correct ratio of women get into parliament and Local Electorate committees could ask the NZ Council to assign certain seats as only open for women’s selection.

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Marriage Equality: Culture Wars One

12 Nov

Back in August Kiri and I both wrote about the marriage equality bill put forward by Labour MP Louisa Wall. I said I was going to ask some people what marriage means for them, in attempts to foster a more compassionate and productive discussion. I have finally got around to it!

What follows is a quick interview with my friend Susan, followed by a brief discussion. Susan is in her early 30s and has been married and divorced, attended a Christian church during her teenage years and also just had a baby with her partner.

G: Do you support marriage equality legislation?

S: Yes – because of the word equality. I see no reason to deny anyone the right to marry based on their sexual orientation.

G: Is the idea of getting married to someone important to you?

S: Personally no, but that is based on a past experience of being in an unhappy marriage. I think there are more important signifiers of a committed relationship than a marriage certificate. In saying that, I wouldn’t rule out getting married again.

G: What does marriage signify for you?

S: In the past it has signified one person being submissive to another. However, this is something I would like to redefine for myself!

G: Do you think marriage equality is a significant issue and needs to be discussed? Continue reading

Marriage Amendment Bill: What Happens Now?

31 Aug

On Wednesday, while standing outside of Parliament listening to inspiring speeches in favour of marriage equality, I was asked by a couple of friends “What next? How many times will this have to pass a vote in the House?” After some hemming and hawing I had to admit that even though I had posted on this subject, I couldn’t quite remember the details. Thus, with Wednesdays First Reading vote in favour of Louisa Wall’s Marriage Amendment bill, now is a pertinent time to re-post a previous blog on how bills become law. Wall’s bill is currently proceeding into the third phase of the process where it will go before a select committee. If marriage equality is something you feel passionately about and you are worried that the loud and caustic voices of social conservatives are being heard excessively, now is your chance to comment on the future you see for New Zealand. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often so if you are keen to make a submission information how to do so can be found here. For a great summary of the first debate about this bill in House, check out Gordan Cambells blog here.

1.    Introduction: A bill is made publically available and is announced in the House. There are four types of bill that can be introduced, Government bills which are part of the governments legislative programme to enable their policy platform, Members bills which can be introduced by members other than ministers; Local bills that are prompted by local authorities and deal with matters confined to a particular locality and Private bills- which are uncommon and provide for a particular interest in the form of an exemption for the general law for an individual or group of people (for example, it would enable two people to marry who are too closely related to married such as adopted siblings).  Bills are publically available here. The Marriage Amendment bill was introduced through a ballot as a Members bill. Continue reading

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Overuse of Urgency (law-making 101: part two)

21 Mar

In the past year there has been growing concern that the National government has been abusing their power to pass laws under urgency. ‘Urgency’ is a normal parliamentary tool used to help deal with a backload of work but critics argue increasingly the use of urgency to pass laws is threatening transparency, scrutiny in the normal select committee process and the public’s ability to engage with this process. Some bills that have been passed under urgency since 2008 include the sacking of Environment Canterbury’s elected council, the increase of GST and the introduction of National Standards for primary schools. This is the second part of a blog on Law-making 101. I will briefly explain what ‘urgency’ is and how it is potentially being abused. Several media and blog sites have commented on this here, here and here

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Law-making 101 (part one)

14 Feb

Like many New Zealanders, until a year ago I knew next to nothing about how legislation passes through parliament.  A failing of our school system perhaps or [as in my case] more likely just a lack of interest, many New Zealanders have a limited understanding of how involved in the process they could be. Often the opportunity for regular kiwi’s to have their say on proposed laws is lost as a result. A further downside of this is when criticism is leveled against the parliamentary system, such as with the current discussion (See: radionz, Greens, idealog, Greens) about the increasing use of urgency to pass bills into law, many people do not realise the true implications of the issue.

In two blog posts I am going to briefly outline how legislation passes through parliament to become law and discuss the implications of the increasing use of urgency. Continue reading

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