Sunday, 25 November 2012

Independent: How on Earth are we going to get a woman PM?
Sunday, 25 November 2012, 09:15 , by Pamela Hansen

So the Maltese are ready for a woman to lead the country and were actually more disposed towards this idea than their European counterparts. Pull the other one, it’s got bells on.

According to a Eurobarometer survey with 500 people, carried out by Misco last June, 84 per cent of Maltese respondents would feel comfortable with a female prime minister and they were actually more disposed towards this idea than their European counterparts, reported Ivan Camilleri in The Times on Friday.

What amused me was the unwitting use of words in the article that demonstrated the underlying thinking on gender equality, “Sweden (97 per cent), a famously liberal country, is the most tolerant.”

So accepting women as leaders is a liberal notion as it is a question of tolerance! Would one even consider men in power as a liberal concept? Or that a country that accepts men as leaders is the “most tolerant”?

We are not even ready to ‘tolerate’ to elect women to Parliament, or to even accept that the only way to get them there is through quotas, so how on earth are we going to get a woman prime minister?

The political parties may pay much lip service to power sharing with women, but we have yet to see any tangible proof that they are willing to do anything about it.

Tonio Borg (PN), our new Commissioner in Europe, was given a hard time on Women Rights before being accepted, which upset George Vella, our Opposition’s foreign affairs spokesman.

“I was angry with Dr Borg for stooping to ‘quench their (MEPs’) thirst’ when he wrote he would fully support women’s rights,” he told Parliament on Wednesday. I thought I had seen the quote in the Times report on Wednesday and posted the comment. “Is this the Labour Party stance? I think we women need to know where the PL stands on women's rights.”

But neither were there when I went back to check. But I found the quote again on Thursday in a shorter report of the same story by Joanne Cocks. I reposted my comment to which Francis Saliba MD replied: “‘Women’s rights’ is a vague term that is being given different meanings according to personal agendas. Not every right claimed by this or that pressure group is a genuine universal fundamental human right.”

Of course by that argument one could say that “Human Rights” can be just as vague. To which Dr Saliba responded, “That is why I (he) never use such deliberate ambiguous terms. I refer to specific universal fundamental human rights as recognised in a United Nations or similar charters.”

Now anyone reading that last comment might not only have wondered why Human Rights and Women’s Rights should be seen as “deliberate ambiguous terms”, but also got the wrong idea about the UN’s stance on women’s rights.

UN support for the rights of women began with the organisation's founding Charter. Among the purposes of the UN declared in Article 1 of its Charter is “To achieve international co-operation … in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”

Within the UN’s first year, the Economic and Social Council established its Commission on the Status of Women, as the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Among its earliest accomplishments was ensuring gender-neutral language in the draft Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Now we all know how far “ensuring gender neutral language” has got us here. The amount of palaver we had just over the simplest term “chairperson” is just one minute example. I even had a woman, who was then the chairperson of our national television station, attempting to change my stance on that gender-neutral term. She was obviously content with being referred to as chairman.

Now, when we have the very few women who occupy leading positions with little notion of the underlying, seemingly harmless words that keep us in our place, we have little hope.

The survey also dealt with discrimination, as the article titled “Maltese ready for a woman to lead the country” tells us, “The majority of Maltese respondents agreed that discrimination is still widespread on the island, even though the reasons may be many.”

But here the survey’s scope went beyond women, or I should say heterosexual women. “Less acceptable seems to be a gay or lesbian prime minister in Malta, although even in this case there are signs of change. Some 55 per cent of Maltese respondents said they would accept a gay prime minister while many of the rest said this would be totally unacceptable.”

Another subtle pointer of the way women are perceived to be treated with indulgence is the way (no disrespect to homosexual people) women are put in the same category as gay and lesbian people. Gay people are men, so if anything they should be categorised with men. But of course men do not need surveys to tell us how easy it is for them to lead.

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