Mauritius: Women's representation quotas
Updated May 2010
The Constitution of Mauritius makes no provision for quotas to ensure women's representation in publicly elected bodies on any level (Tshiyoyo 2005,42). The language of the constitution is masculine; for instance Article 4(a) asserts that, "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been convicted" [emphasis writer's]. The Constitution (1966, 3) states that the fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual exist without discrimination by reason of race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest". This recognition of formal equality is in no way qualified by any recognition of past or present discrimination against women that needs to be remedied to ensure substantive equality. Consequently no laws or mechanisms have been created to ensure that women are adequately represented in publicly elected bodies.
The electoral system in use presents its own problems, as an EISA Observer Mission Report (Tshiyoyo 2005, 10) notes: "It is evident that the version of the Block Vote system currently in use in Mauritius has an exaggerated negative impact on the allocation of legislative seats in terms of the share of votes and the representation of women". In 1995 only 7.58% of members were women, in the 2000 election this declined to 5.71 but rebounded in 2005 to 17.14% and then rose to 18.84% in 2010 (see Women's representation in the National Assembly and Gender issues: Women's representation in the Lower House of Parliament). This puts women's representation at a higher level than countries using single member plurality constituencies, such as Botswana and Zambia (less than 15%), though Malawi raised women's representation to 21% in 2009. Nevertheless it remains lower than representation levels in countries that use the proportional representation system, such as Mozambique and South Africa (over 35%) or even Namibia (22% in 2009).
Without legal quotas the electoral system per se will not produce adequate levels of women's representation without the political will to drive the process. In Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia a proportional representation system is accompanied by quotas that major parties have imposed on themselves purposefully aimed at undoing the effects of marginalisation of and discrimination against women by ensuring that they are meaningfully represented in elected institutions of state.
In Mauritius the opposite is true. The Commission for Constitutional and Electoral Reform (referred to as the Sachs Commission, 2001, 27) stated: "We received forceful testimony, mostly but not exclusively from women, to the effect that the political parties tended to be male-dominated and to lack due sensitivity for the needs and concerns of the female half of the population. The main complaint was that no serious attempt was being made to encourage women to stand for office or to find seats for women in constituencies where they have a good chance of success… In practice, however, the manner in which candidates are chosen appears heavily to discriminate against women".
None of the major parties, apart from the Mauritian Militant Movement (MMM), have adopted voluntary quotas at any level (Bunwaree & Kasenally 2005, 30; Chiroro 2005, 9). The MMM's constitution requires that at least 20% of candidates nominated for National Assembly and local government elections must be women, but as Bunwaree & Kasenally (2005, 30) note, this is "a percentage the party has never attained". Thus in the 2005 election less than 10% of the nominated candidates were women, 63 of 664 candidates (Chiroro 2005, 11).
However, some recognition by the leaders of electoral coalition Alliance MSM/MMM in 2005 of the need to promote women's representation is indicated by the fact that women candidates were proportionately more successful than male candidates; the few women nominated had been placed in seats that were more "winnable". Of the 10 candidates nominated by the Alliance MSM/MMM, seven were successful, as opposed to only 15 of the 50 male candidates; by contrast the Alliance Sociale coalition nominated only six women of whom four were successful, roughly the same proportion of 34 men elected to 54 male candidates (Chiroro 2005, 11, 13). The proportion of women candidates fielded by the two main electoral coalitions in the 2010 National Assembly elections, the Alliance de l'avenir and the Alliance du coeur, were 21% and 13% respectively, but the proportion of women as elected members was 20% for both coalitions (see Women's representation in the 2010 National Assembly).
Party leadership quotas
Some of the major political parties have one or another mechanism to ensure women's representation in party leadership positions. The MMM, for instance, has two members of the women's wing that sit on the national executive as ex officio members (Bunwaree & Kasenally 2005, 30). The Mauritian Socialist Movement "actively encourages women to form part of the regional and local branches, which allows them to integrate into the party structure and ultimately gravitate to higher levels of responsibility within the party" (Bunwaree & Kasenally 2005, 30).
The Labour Party has quotas at constituency level, its constitution stipulation that at least one third of leaders at this level must be women (Bunwaree & Kasenally 2005, 30). Similarly one-third of the candidates proposed by the constituency branches for membership of the National Labour Executive Committee (NLEC) must be women, but it is the leadership that chooses from these who are to be members of the NLEC (Bunwaree & Kasenally 2005, 21).
CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF MAURITIUS 1968, [www] http://www.gov.mu/portal/site/AssemblySite/menuitem.ee3d58b2c32c60451251701065c521ca/ [opens new window] (accessed 22 Feb 2010).
BUNWAREE, S & KASENALLY, R 2005, "Gender equality" IN Political Parties and Democracy in Mauritius [PDF], EISA research Report 19.
CHIRORO, B 2005, Engendering Democracy Through the Ballot Box in the Mauritius 2005 Elections [PDF], EISA Occasional Paper 37.
SACHS COMMISSION 2001 Report of the Commission on Constitutional and Electoral Reform 2001/02, [www] http://www.gov.mu/portal/goc/pmo/file/reform.doc [MS Word document] (accessed 22 Feb 2010).