The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has urged member parliaments to eradicate harmful legislative practices and procedures that impede the efforts to advance gender equality.
The association said steps must be taken to remove norms, behaviours, barriers and restrictive cultures to the empowerment of women parliamentarians.
The Vice Chairman of the CPA, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, made the call when he addressed the 145th high-delegation meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly in Kigali, Rwanda, last Friday.
The meeting was on the theme: “Gender equality and gender- sensitive parliaments as drivers of change for a more resilient and peaceful world.”
It brought together Speakers and legislators from CPA member countries, the diplomatic corps and international observer bodies to, among others, exchange ideas on good practices to make parliaments more gender-sensitive as well as encourage parliaments to pledge transformative action.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is also the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, said in line with the theme of the IPU assembly, the CPA was committed to strengthening gender representation and parity in all CPA parliaments and legislatures.
For instance, he said at the association’s recent conference in Halifax, Canada, the CPA amended its constitution to increase women representation on the executive committee as well as on delegates to the annual conference.
“This demonstrates the commitment within the CPA family to strengthen gender equality and representation in our parliaments,” he said.
He told the assembly that while there were numerous examples of women change- makers across the Commonwealth and the wider world achieving extraordinary progress in advancing gender equality, the responsibility to re-gender parliaments should not be seen as an additional burden placed on women parliamentarians alone.
Rather, he said, gender balance and gender sensitivity could only be achieved when all stakeholders bonded together in addressing and eradicating harmful “practices and procedures, formal and informal rules, norms, behaviours and barriers and restrictive cultures”.
Champion gender equality
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who is also the Majority Leader in Parliament, added that it was CPA’s belief that parliaments must work to become gender-sensitive institutions.
“This means we ought to recognise the detrimental effect of gender suppression and disenfranchisement and must actively champion gender equality,” he said.
To champion gender equality, he said the CPA through the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) network continued to advocate and encourage parliamentarians of all genders to include a gender perspective in all aspects of their role, from budgeting, legislation, oversight and representation.
Citing three other areas that the CPA had continued to work on to promote gender sensitive parliaments, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said the association had developed gender-sensitising parliament guidelines.
“Those guidelines were designed in 2020 to encourage parliaments to not only look into priority areas that needed to be strengthened in order to help legislatures to become effective gender sensitive institutions but to also help parliaments create the necessary conditions to deliver on their responsibility.