Promoting women in Parliament
In Papua New Guinea’s history, there have only ever been seven women elected to the National Parliament. Three women were elected into the very first independence Parliament, and three women were elected to Parliament in the 2012 National Elections, but since the national elections in June 2022, there have been are no women at all in the country’s most important representative body.
To address the lack of representation in the PNG National Parliament, the Government is currently considering proposals to introduce "temporary special measures for women", namely, reserved seats for women and/or political party quotas for women.
Previous TSM proposals in PNG
In the period following the 2007 National Elections, a strong national campaign was developed to promote temporary special measures for women which would ensure that a minimum number of women representatives would be included in the National Parliament. The campaign was led by Dame Carol Kidu in her role as Minister for Community Development within the Somare Government and was supported by women’s organisations – and people – across the country.
A first proposal aimed to nominate three women to Parliament, using an existing provision in ss.101 and 102 of the National Constitution. This proposal was defeated in a vote on the floor of Parliament, which was needed to confirm the nomination process.
A second proposal aimed to introduce 22 seats reserved for women in the National Parliament. These 22 seats would be additional to the existing 109 seats at that time. They would be voted upon by all voters (men and women) and each seat would represent one province plus the National Capital District, in the same way that Governor’s seats currently do. Each seat would have full voting rights within the Parliament. A constitutional amendment was passed in November 2011 to allow the 22 seats for women to be added. However, an amendment to the Organic Law on National and Lovel Level Government Elections was not passed. That amendment was needed to create the 22 new constituencies for women.
Figure 1: Summary of TSM proposals in PNG
In response to the failure to elect any women during the 2017 National Elections, in the immediate aftermath of the elections PM O’Neill committed to reviving the 22 reserved seats proposal. In 2018, the Constitutional and Law Reform Commission (CLRC) was tasked with reviewing PNG’s electoral laws within 18 months, including options for promoting women through temporary special measures. It is understood that the report has been produced, but no public copy is available.
Current TSM proposals being developed
Following the change of Government in May 2019, PM Marape was equivocal on whether or not to pursue any form of temporary special measures. However, in June 2020 PM Marape came out in favour of some form of temporary special measure. Two proposals are currently being considered:
Introducing 5 reserved seats for women in the National Parliament: It is understood that the Government is proposing 5 regional seats, with one regional women’s seat created for the Islands, Momase, and Southern regions and two regional women’s seats created for the Highlands regions (though it is not yet clear how the highlands provinces will be split across these two seats). It will be important to get clarity no which laws will need to be amended to implement this reform, as well as what majority of votes will be needed to amend each law.
Reforming the Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC): The Integrity for Political Parties and Candidates Commission (IPPCC) has been working for some time on reforming the OLIPPAC, including to introduce and strengthen various incentives to support more women being nominated and supported by political parties. Current reforms include:
Minimum percentage of women candidates nominated by political parties: The reform seeks to introduce a new requirement that all political parties must nominate at least 10-20% women out of the full slate of candidates that they nominate in any election (new s.63(4)). This would ensure considerably more women are nominated and would get experience running in elections. Consider for comparison that in the 2017 election, only 167 women candidates ran out of a total of 3332 candidates overall; of these only 68 were endorsed by political parties. It is not clear whether any sanctions will be imposed on political parties who do not comply. The OLIPPAC currently includes fines for some breaches, but it is not clear whether fines will apply to failures to nominate sufficient women. Some similar regimes in other countries enable the Election Commission (or in this case the IPPCC) to refuse the full slate of a party’s candidates if they do not nominate sufficient women.
Figure 2: Women/Men candidates in PNG national elections since Independence
Increasing the amount of money political parties can claim back for women candidates: Currently, every political party is given K10,000 per candidates successful elected to Parliament, and is also reimbursed 75% of that amount for women candidates who lose but receive at least 10% of first preference votes (old s.62). The amendment is increasing the funding to K20,000 per successful candidate, and the 75% reimbursement for women will apply to that higher amount (new s.82). Notably, even in its current form, this provision has not been much used to date because even where political parties have nominated women it does not appear that they have been providing them with financial support and/or where they did, they have not kept proper accounting records to facilitate reimbursement.
Useful TSM resources
UNDP (2021) Timeline of PNG's efforts to implement temporary special measures for women.
UNDP (2021) Fact Sheet - Implementing temporary special measures to promote women’s.
representation in the PNG National Parliament: Options, arguments and analysis.
PNG National Research Institute (2020) Why a temporary special measure is needed in Papua New Guinea’s Parliament.
28 December 2011 Constitutional Amendment No.32 - Equality and Participation Law 2011.
2011 Equality and Participation for women: A better future for PNG - A Policy and Legislative Options Paper, prepared for the PNG TSM Technical Working Group.
20 May 2010 Proposed Law to amend the Constitution to permit reserved seats for women.
20 May 2010 Proposed Law to alter multiple Organic Laws to facilitate reserved seats for women.
UNDP (2009) Lessons Learned Workshop on the Nominated Seats for Women in the Papua New Guinea Legislature: ‘Lessons learned, looking into the future’.