The States Assembly Diversity Forum is delivering one of its key aims by publishing its Gender Audit Report today. The Report is a self-assessment of the States Assembly’s gender-sensitivity and how its institutional structures and work respects women’s rights. Jersey’s Diversity Forum was set up in July 2017 to ensure that the States Assembly better reflects the Island’s population. The report echoes the fact that the States Assembly has been an overwhelmingly male institution, with no female members until 1948 and only 45 women ever elected to the Assembly.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) – a global organisation that brings together national parliaments – defines a ‘gender-sensitive’ parliament as one in which “there are no barriers – substantive, structural or cultural – to women’s full participation and to equality between its men and women members and staff”.
A wide range of areas are examined in the self-assessment report, including the numbers and positions of female politicians in the States Assembly and whether the institution is reflective of the people of Jersey; legal policies, frameworks and budgets and whether they discriminate against men or women, or whether they promote gender equality; and mechanisms and expertise in place to ensure gender equality is systematically addressed.
The report makes 22 recommendations, including:
- Ending gender discrimination in legislation, for example, the Income Tax Law which formally requires a husband to be responsible for the taxation of his wife’s income;
- Increasing the diversity of those standing for election and to provide them with more assistance to stand;
- Making it mandatory for the Chief Minister to have at least one male and one female Assistant Chief Minister;
- Making it mandatory for all panels, committees and working groups of the States Assembly to be comprised of both men and women;
- Making changes to Standing Orders to make them gender neutral (changes to achieve this are being lodged alongside this report). Standing Orders are a set of rules that govern the way in which the States Assembly conducts its business;
- Producing and publishing an action plan for nurturing a diverse and inclusive society, including a strand on gender equality, from the Government of Jersey;
- Engaging with the Statistics Unit to make more official sex-disaggregated data available in Jersey.
Chair of the Diversity Forum, Deputy Louise Doublet, says, “Gender-sensitivity is about recognising the equal rights of men and women, not discriminating against men. What we have found is an extremely high number of significant obstacles to women and those from minority groups (such as young men and men from minority communities) being elected to the States Assembly. From unconscious bias to the cost of standing for election, and from the lack of election campaigning support to the absence of childcare options for States Members, there are many reasons which prevent individuals from minority groups to stand for election.
“We need to drive change so that that States Assembly becomes more representative of the Island it represents. As an example, women make up 51% of the total population of Jersey but currently just 29% of the Assembly’s membership is female. Clearly, this is not representative of our largest under-represented group – Jersey’s women.”
The IPU recommended that a small group comprising politicians and non-members including media representatives be set up to undertake gender-sensitivity self-assessments. Jersey’s Diversity Forum group comprises of Deputy Louise Doublet, Peter McLinton (who continued as a group member on leaving the States), Lucy Stephenson of the Jersey Evening Post and, since the election, Deputy Jess Perchard and Deputy Kirsten Morel.
States Assembly News Release.