News Commentary: Gay and Women in Politics make a headstart

4 10 2011

by Paula Bianca Lapuz

Saudi Women gets to Vote

Women are finally allowed to vote and to seek election in Saudi Arabia’s Municipal Councils, provided that the process will be guided by Islam. Earlier, King Abdullah has already allowed the appointment of women in the 150-member Consultative Council of the Kingdom, and his affirmation of the women’s right to participate in the electoral process is a result of an extensive consultation that the officials did with the country’s senior scholars, BBC reports.

This is a good development in the struggle for the recognition of Saudi women’s civil and political rights. This acknowledgment meant that women’s contribution to community and nation-building is finally recognized by the King and by default by the society as well.

A movement advocating for the removal of discriminatory policies within the country has recently gained ground after incidents involving women in very unfair situations (i.e. a middle-aged woman was detained for a week after she was caught driving and was forced to sign a form indicating that she will not drive again) have met the ire of women activists, the report adds.

Moreover, this progress only indicates that democracy permeates even through very conservative and relatively stable societies such as Saudi Arabia, which probably has been very wary of the uprisings in its neighboring countries in the Middle East, thus perhaps, the King’s approval of the request to allow women to participate in the electoral process.

Irish Gay Senator Still Leading Presidential Polls

Irish gay Senator David Norris still leads the presidential race despite withdrawing his candidacy early on after admitting in July that he had sought a lighter penalty for a friend who was implicated in a pedophile case in Israel, a Reuters report stated.

The report adds that Norris is going against Martin McGuinness, a veteran of the Irish Republican Army, who had seemingly reverted support back to Norris after declaring his interest to join the presidential race.

Regardless of the scandal, the public favor being shown toward Norris is telling. His credentials are being weighed by the voting public, and if elected, he will be the first openly gay president in the world, which again breaks stereotypes in a pre-dominantly global macho society.

Thought bubbles: Is the Philippines ready for a gay President or a President from the minority? How politically active are Muslim women in Philippine Politics?

Taking off from the good news from abroad, it is interesting to see how Filipinos will react toward the prospect of having a gay or a Muslim President, or someone who hails from an indigenous peoples’ group.

Discrimination against gay people still widely occurs in the country despite the general openness of our culture to them. Boy Abunda, a famous TV host and a close ally of the sitting President, Mr. Noynoy Aquino, was once rumored to be the next Tourism secretary. He received some criticism from the public stating how inept he was for the position. Abunda has spent decades of his life in the entertainment industry. He has completed his Master’s degree in International Relations from the Philippine Women’s University.

The situation of women in politics is a bit encouraging in the Philippines. The country has had two female presidents in the last two decades. Not a lot, but there were female presidents, never mind their performance. But the country is definitely open to women in politics. In fact a number of legislators are also women, 62 in the House of Representatives, and three in the House of Senate.

The only Muslim woman who ran last 2010 national elections was Yasmira Lao, who was a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party of the Philippines. Lao did not make it anywhere near the top 12 Senators. In fact, she was way below top 15, she ranked number 32 in the final results.

More so, it will be interesting to know how Muslim women view politics and how they participate in it. There are small areas of success, but much still needs to be done. Unlike perhaps more conservative Muslim societies, the Philippines provides women, no matter their religious preferences, all the civic and political rights due to them. It is then insightful to see how Muslim women take advantage of this democratic space to advance their issues. Perhaps civil society organizations could also pay attention to the particular case of Muslim women.





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