Somali religious scholars defend 30 percent quota for women

UNCT-SO-Religious leaders support 30% quota-2016

The Somali Religious Scholars Council has thrown its weight behind the 30 percent quota for women’s representation in parliament, saying that Islam does not oppose participation of women in politics.

The Chairman of the Council, Sheikh Yusuf Ali Aynte, said both men and women were equal before the Somali constitution and none was superior to the other before Allah.

Speaking at a meeting on the role of women in politics at the Jazeera Palace Hotel in Mogadishu, the cleric said politics was equivalent to management and women can engage in it as much as men.

“Women manage finances, offices, shops and stores. Who makes this city (Mogadishu) move? Eighty percent of the people who do it are women”, Sheikh Aynte said.

He criticized the Somali religious leaders who are opposing the 30 percent quota for women’s representation in parliament, noting it was neither a religious issue nor a foreign intervention in the country’s politics.

“Islam does not block anyone’s rights. No one can take away your right”, Sheikh Aynte said. “When it comes to women’s quota (representation in parliament), be it 30, 20 or whatever percentage, God does not have any position on it. The Koran does not talk about it.”

He traced the struggle by women for participation in politics to Somalia’s independence in 1960 and asked religious leaders not to create divisions between themselves and women.

A member of the Somali Women Development Centre, Maria Taqal Hussein, said the group was lobbying to have more women participate in politics because their absence creates a gap in Somali society.

“We are lobbying as a group of women to fulfil the rights of all Somali people and not clans”, Ms Hussein added.

She said the Centre was part of the larger group of women organizations lobbying to have more women elected to parliament in this year’s electoral process.

Ms. Hussein said women who will be elected to parliament will be given training on how to serve Somali society as well as to advocate for women issues.

Somalia’s electoral process will commence shortly. Elections for seats in the upper house of the federal parliament are scheduled to take place on 10 October, while voting for seats in the lower house will occur between 23 October and 10 November. Members of the new parliament will then vote on presidential candidates on 30 November.