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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - In politics, gender gap still wide: study

In politics, gender gap still wide: study

Cambodia will fail in meeting UN Millennium Development Goals on elected female representation, the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (Comfrel) said yesterday, with the proportion of female candidates running in next month’s election coming in just under 20 per cent.

Only 168 females are listed as candidates by the National Election Committee (NEC) for next month’s polls – just 19 per cent of the total 886 candidates, the Comfrel research note says.

In 2008, 14.8 per cent of election candidates were women.

Despite the low figure, however, females listed as candidates in the top three spots on the election ballot almost tripled from 4.16 per cent in 2008 to 12.16 per cent this year.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has listed 20 female candidates this election – or 16.26 per cent – the same proportion of total candidates as they had in 2008, Sonket Sereyleak, education and gender coordinator at Comfrel, said.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party has listed only 12 female candidates – 9.75 per cent of their total, she added.

“The number of women elected will possibly decrease . . . Because of the popularity of the big parties . . . these parties will win [the majority] of seats in the election and they have few female candidates,” she said.

Minority parties put up more women as candidates, she added, with some reaching as high as 50 per cent of their total.

CNRP lawmaker candidate and women’s advocate Mu Sochua said, however, that it was hard for her party, as the opposition, to find suitable female candidates.

“It is difficult for us to find professional women with the means,” she said.

Although the party still lacks a female quota, she added, the CNRP has been trying to prioritise youth, and particularly female youth, where possible.

“Yesterday in Mondulkiri, we wanted a female candidate. We had her and she was indigenous but she gave up her spot to a male candidate. But because he was a youth we accepted,” she said.

“For men, politics is a man’s arena and they don’t have the [familial] guilt . . . it’s a social issue.”

However, Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak had a different opinion.

“All parties are run by old men, and I can see the lack of concern of these old men on bringing women into politics.”

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