Gender and the Constituent Assembly: Promoting Women's Political Participation in Fiji
Women make up around 50% of the Fiji population but they continue to be underrepresented in national decision-making and are denied equal participation in such processes.An y democratisation process that does not enable equal, fair and substantive participation of women, and does not take into account gender perspectives, lacks legitimacy and authority. The Fiji Women’s Forum (FWF) at its inaugural meeting in April 2012 identified four key priority areas that are of concern for women. One of these key priority areas is the promotion of women’s participation in decision-making. The FWF agreed that the current democratization process needs to integrate representation of women at all levels. In the current constitution making context, the Constituent Assembly is an entity being formed with the purpose and intent of adopting and legitimising the constitution. The experiences of other countries have shown that constituent assembly membership, functioning, procedures, and decision-making often lack a gender perspective. Some countries have used quota arrangements to ensure the representation of women, but in general gender 31 Experiences from the women members of the Nepal Constituent Assembly – Kathmandu, Nepal, 21-26 September 2012 perspectives are not adequately taken into consideration resulting in procedures and decision-making that marginalise women’s participation and contribution. It is not only important that the membership of the constituent assembly is gender balanced but that the procedures and processes adopted are responsive to the realities of women and men. A gender perspective enables the power relations between men and women, including the intersectionalities of ethnicity, culture, class, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and geographical location, to be adequately taken into account when designing the process, and discussing and adopting the content of the constitution. A gender perspective needs to be incorporated throughout the entire constituent assembly process.