Women with disabilities (WWDs) in Masvingo have demanded reserved seats in Parliament, saying this would increase their representation in the august House and ensure articulation of their issues.
By Tatenda Chitagu
The Constitution reserves 60 seats in Parliament for women for 10 years and the provision has been extended by another two terms.
But the women quota system does not provide for WWDs.
Speaking at a stakeholders consultation meeting for WWDs on the proposed Constitutional Amendment No 2 Bill, organised by the Institute for Community Development at a local hotel last Friday, the women blasted the Constitution for shutting them out.
“The Constitution did not address the issue of gender balance and also most provisions do not cater for people with disabilities (PWDs) when it comes to appointments. The clause that talks of 60 reserved seats for women does not talk of composition of women with disabilities,” said Mabel Machonisa, an activist.
“The clause treats women as homogenous and is not specific. I understand there are few women in Senate who are disabled. I do not know of a disabled parliamentarian, yet we are more vulnerable. This is despite the fact that we have other provisions that support and put an obligation for gender equality and various and varied disabilities.”
Another activist said the appointment of non-constituency Cabinet ministers and Vice-Presidents did not talk of women or PWDs.
“The appointment of extra ministers by the President does not address the issue of gender. How can there be gender neutrality in a society already with inequalities. As the disabled, we are marginalised from political activities. There are many barriers to entry into politics.
“As such, the government should reserve seats for people with disabilities — one for each province — including youths with disabilities,” another activist, who preferred anonymity, said.
The Speaker of the National Assembly gazetted the Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2 (HB 23, 2019) (Bill) on January 17, 2020.
The Bill, which was supposed to be tabled in Parliament for its first reading by April 17, proposes amendments to the Constitution like scrapping of the presidential running mates, while giving the President powers to appoint Vice-Presidents; increasing the number of non-constituency ministers (and deputy ministers) from five to seven; gives the president power to appoint judges as well as amend their tenure in office; rename the civil service to public service; re-introduce the office of the public protector, amend provisions relating to the appointment of the prosecutor-general; remove legislators from the membership of provincial councils, among others.
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