Subject: LUSA: National Council Members Explain Rejection of Quotas for Women

East Timor: National Council Members Explain Rejection of Quotas for Women 16 Mar-17:31

Members of East Timor's National Council transition legislature justified Friday their rejection of quotas for women candidates on party election lists.

Avelino Coelho of the Timorese Socialist Party (PST) and Angela Freitas of the Labor Party (PT) called a press conference to "clarify positions". The Council had earlier this week approved an election law package, rejecting however one controversial article that tied government support for parties to mandatory quotas for women on party lists.

The article had been proposed by the UN as an alternative to a recommendation on the transition calendar approved by the National Council on Feb. 23. The legislation in question concerns the framework for electing the territory's Constituent Assembly, which will draft and approve a future national constitution.

East Timor, which had been occupied by Indonesia for 24 years, voted for independence in Aug. 1999. The half-island has since been governed by a UN transition administration (UNTAET) charged with preparing it for full independence, likely within the next year.

Avelino Coelho said that the article in question was unacceptable for Council members, who could never support the "commercialization" of women. He specified that if the quotas were linked to UN support, then the parties would be "more interested in receiving UNTAET support than in East Timorese women".

"We believe the quota system differentiates the position of women. The article openly and shamefully commercializes East Timorese women", Coelho said, adding that "equality of rights" would in any case imply a quota of 50 percent and not 30.

Simultaneous to the press conference, a group of several dozen protesters from East Timor's most prominent women's rights organizations demonstrated in front of the Government Palace in Dili.

Council members subsequently came out of the building to explain the decisions to the crowd.

After the press conference, Council members addressed the demonstrators, reiterating that all continued to defend "the emancipation of women and equality" of rights between sexes, despite rejection of the article on mandatory quotas.

JBC -Lusa

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