Women should be represented in all decision making bodies in Cyprus and civil society should overcome its inhibitions and strive to achieve equality at al levels, a forum organised by the European Parliament Office and the office of Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) concluded on Wednesday.
Speaking at the event, entitled “European elections 2014: Has the time come for setting quotas?”, Justice and Public Order Minister Ionas Nicolaou said that the time has come to show our European nature, by giving all citizens, women and men, equal opportunities.
“Society has to drop all stereotypes and promote women at decision making centres”, he told participants at the EU House in Nicosia.
The EU charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union safeguards gender equality, he said, while the strategy for equality between women and men – 2010–2015 notes the need to make improvements in this field. He said in the EU, women make up 33% of members of the European Commission while women MEPs stand at 36%.
In Cyprus, he said, women’s representation in parliament is only 11% with only seven women amongst the 56 MPs, while at the European Parliament, of the six Cypriot MEPs, only two are women, or 33%.
The Justice Minister said there is only one woman in the 11-member Cabinet, making that a 9.1% and from the five independent officials, only two are women and four out of the five commissioners in the Nicos Anastasiades government are women.
In local administration, said Nicolaou, women’s participation reaches 18% with 84 out of the 472 municipal councillors, with no woman in the mayor’s seat.
In the judiciary, 44% of judges are women and at the Supreme Court, three out of the 13 judges are women.
In the civil service, he said, women hold 33% of senior positions, adding that the government recently appointed a Commissioner for Equality to promote government policy towards equality.
In her speech, Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou said that in Cyprus and elsewhere, despite the fact that there has been improvement in safeguarding the right of women’s participation in politics, the participation of women in decision making centres continues to be low, even if they make up the majority of the electoral list.
She said that in order to allow the legislative framework to function in an effective manner and achieve the biggest possible participation of women in politics, practical and effective measures are necessary.
Savvidou said that the introduction of quotas should constitute a temporary measure which the government should promote, giving incentives to half of the population that is actively participating in the island’s political life.
The Ombudswoman said that the participation of women in politics should not be merely a woman’s issue and urged women to vote for women in the elections.
Acting head of the EP office in Cyprus, Alexandra Attalides said that gender equality is one of the policies actively promoted by the European Parliament. She referred to Sirpa Pietikainen of Finland’s 50/50 campaign that aims to promote the equal representation of women and men in all European institutions.
Only eight member states have introduced legislation for quotas while in Cyprus and other countries, only some political parties are promoting setting up quotas in their election campaigns.
The 2014 EP elections on May 22-25, she added, are an opportunity for change.
“By showing zero tolerance to inequality, citizens can lead Cyprus to a democracy that will be based on gender equality,” she concluded.
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