Signaling a boost for gender equality, Liberia passes the ‘Affirmative Action Bill’

On 29 September, the Liberian House of Representatives concurred with the Senate to pass the Equal Representation and Participation Act of 2016, establishing seven ‘Special Constituencies’, among which five seats would be reserved for women, one for youth and one for the disabled.

The passage of the law marks a milestone achievement, following a series of consultations and public hearings supported by UN Women since 2009, and advocacy by civil society and partners. In August 2016, the Liberian Senate had passed and forwarded the Act to the House of Representatives amidst strong support from various women groups and other stakeholders under the leadership of the Women Legislative Caucus, and the Ministry of Gender Children and Social Protection. The Act in its original version proposed the creation of 21 ‘Special Legislative Constituencies’, out of which 15 seats would be reserved exclusively for women and three seats each for the youth population and people with disabilities, with at least one seat allotted for female representatives within each group. However, policies must be accompanied by adequate budget to put them into practice. At the final hearing on 29 September, an amendment was made in the light of budget constraints, lowering the number of seats for women from 15 to seven. A special Committee has been established to elaborate on this further before the Act is presented to the President for signature.

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