FNC report calls for set quotas for women

A report calls for quotas to be set for the minimum number of women standing for the FNC.

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DUBAI // A parliamentary report has called for quotas to be set for the minimum number of women standing for the FNC. It won immediate backing from Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for FNC Affairs, who emphasised the importance of greater female participation in parliament. The study, co-written by the Federal National Council (FNC) and the Dubai School of Government (DSG) recommended "gender-neutral quotas", which would ensure that neither sex would make up less than a set proportion of parliamentary candidates. It also called for a family affairs committee to be set up, more equal citizenship rights for women, and a system to assess how much female FNC members were being involved in decisions. "When people speak of the UAE, they talk about the largest tower, or biggest hotel, or airport, which we are proud of," said Dr Gargash last night in Dubai. "But underneath that, we have a real success stories, and one of those successes are the women in the UAE."

He went on to say that such studies should continue to be released, and people should be open to criticism. "There are still a number of steps we need to take to enhance political participation and the political process," he said. The report, Women in Parliament and Politics in the UAE, looked at the role of women in politics since they first took part in the 2006 FNC elections. Questioning both current FNC members and previous candidates, the authors found that both men and women responded positively to increased female participation. Dr May al Dabbagh hailed its "surprisingly upbeat results". However, she said, men and women had differing attitudes to the role of women in politics, and the effects of their participation. The study found that more women (81 per cent) than men (57 per cent) endorsed the idea of quotas. Some in favour stated that without a quota system, the number of women participating would not increase. "Those supporting quotas tended to see discrimination as part and parcel of the experience of participating politically and a necessary step to be overcome for a truly inclusive process across all emirates," said Dr al Dabbagh. She said that more than men, women needed the support of their families to participate in the political process. "In order for the electoral process to be fair and inclusive," the report said, "women should be allowed to register as individual citizens rather than as dependents on their male guardian's family book." It called for women to have their own National Identity Cards in time for the next round of elections, due in 2011. A family affairs committee would, it said, be able to address women's issues in a forum designed to be culturally sensitive, but also allow male representatives to be included. Furthermore, the report suggested a system to monitor the progress of female FNC members. It would document their involvement in parliamentary committees, including their inclusion in or exclusion from the decision-making process. Dr al Dabbagh also raised the societal and cultural constraints that applied to all candidates. "Male candidates had difficulty reaching female voters, and vice versa, due to the conservative constraints in society," she said. Yet Dr Gargash remained positive over the future of women in politics. He said the UAE was "making our own model, for which we may be criticised, but at the end of the day, it is our choice and we cannot stand still." nsamaha@thenational.ae