Political underrepresentation of women remains a problem in Montenegro

Coalition for Equality STEP, on the occasion of celebration of the 8 March, points out a fact that position of women in Montenegrin society is still far from declarative commitment of decision-makers on achieving gender equality and society of equal opportunities for both sexes.

Representation and status of women in social spheres in which decisions are being made remains unsatisfactory. It is of particular concern the approach of decision makers, who very slowly and reluctantly make and implement decisions when it comes to the improvement of status of women and implementation of equality policies.

Namely, although they constitute a majority of population of Montenegro, women are still underrepresented in decision-making places. The recent negative vote on amendments to the Law on Election of Councillors and Members of the Parliament, and rejection of amendments that were intended to improve position of women in political decision-making is only the most recent evidence of unwillingness of society to transpose the equality as a principle of gender relations from legal norms into reality.

We remind that a group of Montenegrin NGOs has proposed that a new Law on Election of Councillors and Members of the Parliament includes a provision according to which every third place on the election list would go to a woman which would allow that, by the principle of allocation of mandates in order of candidates from the election list, a larger number of women would enter parliamentary benches. According to this initiative, in the event of termination of mandate, a parliamentary seat which was occupied by a representative of the less represented gender shall be replaced by first next female candidate and not a male one from the election list. This proposal was meant to be an amendment and improvement of existing legal solution from 2011 which prescribes a norm that election lists have at least 30% of women, but without specifying the order of candidates, which has given a vast space to party actors for manipulation when creating lists and later caucuses. As a result of this “imprecision” in previous parliamentary elections, certain parties had 30% of women on their lists but most female candidates were at the bottom of the list, which ultimately led to the fact that today in the Parliament of Montenegro we have only 16% of female MPs, which is even the least in Europe. The proposal of NGOs was supported with amendments by the Socialist People’s Party (SNP), the Bosniak Party and the Positive Montenegro, but this was not enough and the same have not passed at the Parliament’s session on 18 February, while amendment of the DPS that every fourth place on the list belongs to a woman was accepted. Thus, even the earlier modest progress towards greater participation of women in decision-making was nullified.

The structure of the Parliament of Montenegro and other representative institutions shows that the constitutional principle of equality between women and men and development of policy of equal opportunities, as well as legal definitions of gender equality and gender-balanced representation, have not been achieved in relation to women. It is unlikely that this situation will improve even after next elections, bearing in mind the recent changes in the Law on Election of Councillors and Members of the Parliament.

Failure to adopt the amendment, initiated by NGOs, causes a serious damage to creation of conditions for a stronger political participation of women, and consequently limits the overall democratic process. Equal participation of women in political decision-making is a necessary precondition for full democratization of society, better use of all capacities of society for in order to achieve a quality of political decisions, and accordingly even the economic development.

Despite significant progress in the area of gender equality and women’s human rights, from adoption of international documents, national, regional and local regulations, strategic frameworks and action plans, as well as the activities of civil society organizations and women’s groups, the inequality of women in political decision-making even nowadays is located in the very root of all other violations of women’s rights and their bad economic status, violence, threats to women’s rights on basis of sex, marital and family status and motherhood. Equality policies that should permeate the entire system can not be successfully designed and implemented without participation of women in decision-making about them.

Coalition for Equality STEP encourages policy and decision makers to act with utmost responsibility in the further implementation of equality policies that are required for balanced development of Montenegrin society and to which they have committed themselves by accession to a number of international organizations, and documents that they have accepted on the path of EU integration.

The STEP coalition consists of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights – YUCOM, Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Network of Committees for Human Rights in Serbia CHRIS and Gay Straight Alliance GSA (from Serbia); Kosovo Humanitarian Law Fund and the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (from Kosovo); Centre for Civic Education (CCE) and LGBT Forum progress (from Montenegro).

Petar Đukanović,
Programme Coordinator