Bill asks FSM to consider new non-voting seats for women in Congress

By Bill Jaynes

The Kaselehlie Press

March 16, 2018

FSM—The FSM Congress has introduced a bill (CB 20-116) that would purportedly guarantee representation of women in the FSM Congress. If passed it would mean another plebiscite vote to change the Constitution to redefine FSM Congress.

The bill is currently being shopped around by the Congress Standing Committee on Justice and Governmental Operations in public hearings throughout the FSM.  It is too early for the J&GO Committee to have made a report to Congress and more public hearings are scheduled and to be announced.  According to the reactions of many people who have attended public hearings, the reaction to the proposed bill has been anything but positive.

The bill proposes to establish a seat in Congress for each State for one female member elected at large from each State.  The proposed term for those seats would be two years.  “Female members elected on the basis of state equality shall be nonvoting members.  These members may be appointed as committee members, and may participate in discussion and debate.”

For some people, the very idea that seats need to be established on any basis to be filled exclusively by women presupposes that all of the other seats will be filled my males and is therefore an exclusionary measure of sorts.  There has never been a woman elected for any seat in the FSM Congress but women are not precluded from running and winning a sit in the nation’s seat of legislative power.

In August of 2012, Senator Isaac Figir who was then the Speaker of Congress proposed CB 17-147 which also proposed the addition of four new seats in Congress for women.  That proposed bill is not available on the Congress website but The Kaselehlie Press published an interview with Speaker Figir about his bill which he first introduced as 15-169 in November of 2008.  If either of his two bills had passed in Congress it would have meant a Constitutional referendum.  Neither of his bills would have relegated the role of women who fill those seats to a non-voting status in Congress.

The bill that is currently being considered was introduced by Speaker Wesley Simina on December 4, 2017.  The heading said that it would be a “temporary special measure”.

“…Stating that this measure is on the basis of ‘equality’?  It makes my stomach turn,” one woman wrote in an email to The Kaselehlie Press.  She said that she had emailed the Chairman of the J&GO Committee asking on behalf of the Pohnpei Women Council to be heard but received no reply.  She said that she had also called and left what she categorized as a “ton” of messages but received no reply from that avenue either.  “This is the most degrading, demeaning, discriminatory bill ever,” she wrote.

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