By Lincoln G. Peters
The Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) has blasted President George Manneh Weah for vetoing an amendment to the New Election Law that required 30% women representation in political parties.
During the Liberian National Bar Association (LNBA) Annual General Assembly over the weekend, AFELL expressed disappointment, frustration, and anger at President Weah’s decision against the election law.
The amendment in question sought to make 30% of gender representation mandatory. It would have empowered the National Elections Commission (NEC) to fine or delist any political party that failed to adhere to the gender quotas.
Gender quotas are a type of “temporary special measure” to accelerate women’s substantive equality with men, and achieve the necessary structural, and socio-cultural changes to redress the historical marginalization of women from political life.
While vetoing the amendment and several others made to the New Election Law, President Weah said the amendments conflicted with already existing constitutional provisions and other laws, saying he preferred the law staying the way it is.
President Weah’s decision has dashed the hopes of many women rights advocates, including AFELL, who had for years lobbied for the quota.
AFELL president Atty. Philomena T. Williams criticized President Weah for vetoing a progressive amendment to the new election law.
“AFELL comes to this assembly strongly disappointed in President George M. Weah’s veto of the New Election Law, especially Section 4.5 (10% affirmation) for gender representation,” said Atty. Williams.
According to her, President Weah had indicated that he vetoed the law because the country is just seven months away from the 2023 presidential and legislative elections.
But Atty. Williams said President Weah’s decision has upset AFELL, and the group wants him to rationalize the huge gap between women in politics and national leadership in Liberia.
She stressed the need for complementary laws in consonance with the Constitution.
Citing census report, Atty. Williams said the female population accounts for 49.6, and statistics also reflect that general inequality cut across all circles of life in Liberia.
The AFELL president lamented that women are disproportionately represented in all and every state of unemployment in politics and leadership.
“We will fight this to the end. Let us note that Sierra Leone President Julus M. Bio signed the 30% Gender Quota Affirmative Act in January 2023 as slow as five months to their elections.”
“On the other hand, President Weah veto the women 30% Quota Representation Act seven months [into] presidential and legislative elections,” she said.
“Therefore, President Weah, we strongly believe that if you have signed the 30% Quota Women Representative Act for women representation, it clearly could not have delayed the election process as stated in his veto statement,” Atty. Williams argued.
She indicated that the present cause of delay in the elections process is due to a multiplicity of reasons, including but not limited to a single computer assigned at the voter registration center.
” Mr. President, the veto of the 30% Women Representation law doesn’t revert the terminology of feminist-in-chief or he-for-she.”
Atty. Williams congratulated the women of Sierra Leone for a milestone achievement against a disproportionate female representative in politics and leadership.
She indicated that the Act has been referred to as a landmark legislation, adding that Sierra Leone’s President has stated that they meant to see and acknowledge women’s rightful position fully, and the law will give them tools to correct that.
Atty. Williams also encouraged the electorate to register and vote. She urged citizens and politicians to stop election violence.