Why no female Minister?
AWARE is disappointed by the absence of a female minister in the new Cabinet line-up announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on May 18.
Besides the lack of a female minister in the new Cabinet, none of the new female Members of Parliament were given Minister of State (MOS) positions. In comparison, several male newcomers were appointed either Minister or Minister of State.
At a press conference held on May 19 to announce the release of AWARE’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Shadow Report, Ms Braema Mathi called for transparency and clarity in the appointment process. Ms Mathi is the chairperson of AWARE’s CEDAW Sub-Committee as well as AWARE’s Research and Advocacy Director.
She emphasised that AWARE did not believe that women should be appointed Ministers solely on the basis of their gender. However, she believed that citizens would want to know the “transparency of the criteria” and the “recruitment process” of these office-holders who will be making decisions on their behalf and there must be some “broad strokes that one could share”. The best way to address these concerns would be to accord transparency and clarity to the recruitment criteria and appointment process.
Ms Mathi said that there is an element of risk with giving a new person a ministerial position immediately. However, it should also be noted that this very risk was taken by giving ministerial positions to male newcomers into Parliament such as MG(NS) Chan Chun Sing (Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports and MOS for Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts), Mr Heng Swee Keat (Minister for Education), Lawrence Wong (MOS for Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Education) and BG(NS) Tan Chuan-Jin (MOS for Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Manpower).
“Can’t that same risk also be given to women candidates or women who have already been given responsibilities?” she asked.
Ms Mathi also questioned why the promotion of women in Parliament was “step-by-step”. For example, see the lateral move of MOS for Environment and Water Resources (MEWR) Dr Amy Khor – the best performer at the ballot box – to MOS for Health, and Senior Minister of State (SMS) for National Development and Education Grace Fu’s move to SMS for MEWR and Ministry for Information, Communications and the Arts.
AWARE hopes that the State will, in keeping with its treaty obligations under CEDAW, make a concerted effort to encourage and support the current female office bearers to become full Ministers sooner rather than later.
Read more about CEDAW and AWARE’s CEDAW Shadow Report 2011 here.