AT THE ONGOING Liberia Constitutional Consultation being held in Gbarnga, Bong County, organized by the Constitutional Review Committee(CRC), Liberian Women are still demanding fifty percent in government and noted that political parties should ensure that fifty percent of elected and appointed positions be of the same gender. The women want equal representation;request an addition to Article 18(b) that will guarantee fifty percent representation of women and men in all public functions and equal access to opportunities in the private sector.
THE WOMEN NOTED that a new provision be added as Article 79(f) where Political parties shall ensure fifty percent of elected or appointed position be of the same gender.The Liberian women also want an Addition to Article 11 (a) which would indicate that the Constitution shall guarantee special representation of men and women with disabilities and differently abled people and the youths.
THEY WANT THE Legislature to enact appropriate laws for the implementation of these provisions, justifying that the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia does not have specific provisions with regards to affirmative action mandating women’s representation in public or private leadership spaces.Giving further justification, the women said this percentage is lower than what is obtaining in African countries and observed that currently the average representation for women in Sub Saharan Africa stands at 22percent.
THE WOMEN SAID they drew inspiration from a lot of changes happening on the continent in this respect as highlighted by the various provisions of countries like Rwanda, Kenya and Zimbabwe that have a comprehensive structure that unapologetically entrench gender equality. They said as it stands today Zimbabwe’s constitution provides for 50/50 representation of women inParliament; Rwanda is now the world’s number one and has a female parliamentary representation of 63 percent.
ON MARRIAGE, THE women also suggested that an addition be made toArticle 23 (a) which will ensure that the Constitution shall protect the institution of marriage by recognizing 3 forms of marriages: Statutory, Customary and Common Law. They said under this constitution; the legal age for marriage shall be 18 years; all marriages in Liberia shall be voluntarily entered into.
THE WOMEN ALSO suggested that Article 23(a) be replaced as 23 (b) with additions and the legislature shall enact laws to govern the devolution of estates and property and establish rights of inheritance and descent for spouses of both statutory, customary and common law marriages as to give adequate protection to surviving spouses and children of such marriages. They also proposed that Article 23 (d) shall read “All men and women in a marriage shall own all properties acquired during the union in common unless the couple choose an alternative in writing, such property shall not be alienated or controlled by one spouse except by the free and voluntary consent of both parties.
HAVING OUTLINED THESE proposals by the women, it is prudent that the constitutional consultation that is ongoing gives some credence to these proposals and study them properly for the matter to indeed justify inclusion in the body politics of Liberia which all gender belongs to.
WE THEREFORE URGE the organizers to adequately study these proposals and go a step further in ensuring that these provisions are working in those countries cited or they are just a matter of record on their respective books without implementation. The women must be listened to if Liberia’s new born democracy must survive the test of time and ensure that every aspect of our society be part of our body politics without anyone feeling excluded. Really the women and any other groupings or stakeholders must be listened to with appropriate mechanism applied to have an inclusive constitution that will satisfy all.