Parliament dress code and attitudes to gender need to move forward with times

Tuesday 26 January 2021 | Written by CI News Staff | Published in Local, National

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Parliament dress code and attitudes to gender need to move forward with times
Titikaveka MP Selina Napa. 17061801a

Member of Parliament Selina Napa says parliament has outdated rules on how female lawmakers should dress.

Napa says that with four women MPs, she is particularly proud that the Democratic Party with a total 11 MPs has the record number of female politicians in Parliament.

Despite this, parliament has work to do in addressing gender equality, she said.

“What we in the Opposition want addressed in Parliament are how the standing orders are written and always using the male reference.," said the senior Opposition Democrat who has been an MP for over 10 years.

"If we are going to be a gender sensitive Parliament we need to be progressive and address this and make it neutral like other parliamentary institutions around the world. The reference would then be he/she or her/him."

“We women enjoyed a small, but significant victory in our Parliament last year when the Opposition submitted that the wearing of our traditional ei katu and ei kaki should be permitted in the House. It went through and now we can wear our flowers that are such an important part of who we are, and how we Cook Islands Maori women dress.”

Napa says another issue that she would like to submit to Parliament is that women should be permitted to wear trouser suits when attending sessions.

She said the Cook Islands Parliament dress code needed to move with the times and women in parliaments all over the world are able to wear dress trousers and trouser suits.

“It’s not an issue anywhere else in the world, but it is one here, women cannot wear trousers into the Parliament building. This rule applies to any woman who may be invited for lunch or wish to be in the public gallery at Parliament,” she said.

“I think our women MPs will look very smart in suits when the weather gets cooler.”

Napa was also involved recently in a series of regional meetings between Pacific parliamentarians and Commonwealth Parliamentarian through her role as Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians (CWP) chairperson.

Napa said despite worldwide Covid-19 restrictions, the regional event was able to go ahead via Zoom and is the first in a planned series of high level meetings.

“It is important to note that this roundtable is the flagship event that will officially mark the beginning of a series of Regional Roundtables that will form part of a wider CWP Programme on gender sensitisation,” Napa said.