Friday, July 01, 2011

Debate over quotas in Parliament: English speaking women should not be the prime target!

First of all we should stress here that we strongly support the idea of quotas for all sections of society that are marginalised and low represented in decision making bodies. We were advocating for this in the last decade. The so-called progressive forces in the society, namely Left-Labor, Greens and Socialists, wrongly translated these fair campaigns into campaigns to advocate for better representation of groups which are equally represented in the decision making bodies. These forces were focussing on quotas for women (in general terms, as if all women are equally marginalised) and homosexuals.

In the issue of quota, we should be very careful, for two reasons:
1- The perception of marginalisation does not necessarily reflect actual marginalisation.
2- The issue of marginalisation is complex and is not uniformed within the same gender, religious belief or sexual orientation.
3- The quota issue, if there would be consensus on it, should be discussed by experts and not by lobby groups, as some lobby groups are more influential than others.

Let us discuss the above in more details.

There is perception in the society that the women and homosexuals are the only (or at least the most) marginalised groups in the society. This is because the mainstream women (or more frank, the Anglo-Saxon women) and the homosexual lobby groups are very powerful and can make the whole society hear their demands.

Let us take the women representation in Federal Parliament as clear example about the misleading claims (or at least naive claims by these groups) that women (in general) are the only (or at least the worst) marginalised group in the society. On this regard, let us examine the facts (from the official website of FP, as currently states):
- There are 67 women in both houses of the FP, which constitutes around 30% of overall numbers of MPs.
- Out of these, 6 women MPs were born in Non-English speaking countries (around 2.5% of overall MPs numbers).
- There is no woman in parliament from indigenous background.
- There is no woman with disabilities.
- There is no woman whose faith is not Judeo-Christian.
- There are 11 MPs (both male and female) who were born in Non-English speaking courtiers (mainly from Europe).

Taking into account that:
- Women constitute 50% of the society.
- 25% of these women were born in Non-English speaking countries (which means that 12.5% of Australians are women born in Non English speaking countries)
- 3% of society is Indigenous people (half of these are women).
- 25% of Australians were born in Non-English speaking countries.

Based on the above mentioned facts, we can see that:
- English speaking women (around 37% of population) have strong representation in FP with around 28% of MPs are English speaking women.
- Non English speaking women’s representation in the parliament is less than 2.5% (to represent around 12.5% of population)
- Indigenous women (around 1.5% of population) are totally unrepresented in parliament.
- Women with disabilities (Australian with physical disabilities are around 10% - so the women with disabilities in the society constitutes around 5% of the population) are totally unrepresented in FP.
- Not only this, non-English speaking men (more than 13% of population) is represented by less than 2.5% of MPs.

In this regard, we can safely conclude that English speaking women are approximately equally represented in the Federal Parliament.

Not only this.
We have now English speaking woman Governor General.
We also have English speaking woman PM.
We also have 2 premiers (out of 6) which mean 30% of premiers are English speaking women.
We also have English speaking woman as Chief Minister (out of 2) which means that 50% of Chief Ministers are English speaking women.

All this and we do not have any: Non-English speaking, Indigenous or People with disabilities in one of these powerful positions. Even Marie Bashir, the NSW governor, was born in NSW.

Now for the next issue: the marginalisation is not uniformed across the same gender, religion ...

We can see very clear that English speaking women are not deeply marginalised (as they have enough or near-enough representation on all decision making bodies) while women who speaks English as second language or from other ethnicity (rather than Anglo-Saxon) are deeply marginalised.

So we can conclude safely (even if the information on the federal parliament website is not recently updated) that women are not evenly marginalised. Place of birth, ethnicity, language spoken at home and religious believes are playing more significant role in deciding the marginalisation of women rather than merely gender. We even can safely claim that English speaking women are nearly equally represented in the parliament and in other decision making bodies.

We should note here that in addressing marginalisation and fight to end such marginalisation, sections of society cannot fully understand the issues cause this marginalisation. And the whole debate of enforcing quota is to recognise that marginalised groups are the only groups that can fight for their own rights.

The English speaking women cannot claim that by increasing their representation in parliament, is a positive step to end the marginalisation of Non-English speaking women or women of indigenous background.

The English speaking women was marginalised when the society was homogenously White and Christian. Few decades ago, more than 90% of Australians were white English speaking Christians. At that time, the power struggle was based on gender. White Christian men wanted to grab the whole power.

Now when more than 25% of Australians were born in Non-English speaking countries and around 1/3 of population declared that they are not following Judeo-Christian religions, the situation is different. The oppression has shifted from gender based, to be race-religion based. And we should act accordingly.

If the English speaking women think that men cannot fight for their rights, they should recognise that the same principle applies to the Non-English and Non-Anglo women.

We do not believe that English speaking women born in Australia or speak English as first language can understand the marginalisation of migrant and refugee women.

Not only this. We can safely claim that migrant men, indigenous men and men with disabilities are more marginalised than English speaking women. And definitely these women cannot fight for these men’s rights.

We support the principle of quota. But it should not be naively based on gender quota. It should be assessed by experts and the representatives of these highly marginalised communities. We also should look at the experience of other nations and take good lessons from them. NZ successfully enforced quota, but on indigenous base and not on gender one. The experience of Jordan, a semi-democratic society is different. There are quotas on gender base, on ethnic base and on religious base. There are quotas for Christians because they are religious minority. There are quotas for Chechen and charkas as ethnic minorities. And there is quota for women based on the fact that Jordan is a male dominated society.

Can we learn the lessons? I doubt. As the whites are fiercely fighting against any change in power balance. The facts that the so-called progressive forces like the Greens are fiercely fight against any representation of ethnic and religious minorities in the parliament give us grim picture. The Greens inside reports are proud that they presented high proportion of homosexuals to parliament, as the prime marginalised group. There is no report that supports this claim.
These white and English speaking politicians wants to confuse us by claiming that they are ready to fight for women rights, when the most dividing issues of the society these days are the racisms and Islamophobia.

But if the “left” of the political system has such regressive understanding of marginalisation, do we have strong excuses to be pessimistic?

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