Thursday, 17 March 2016

Sex, Gender and Quotas

I am in total support of having more females in representational politics. Historically, gender division has been rooted in patriarchy and has served to reinforce traditional roles and personality traits of females often associated with weakness and dependence. Studies now reveal that women bring both a tangible and intangible service to any situation to which they are included. However, we need to consider very careful the social and economic implications among others for going the route of legislation to ensure gender quotas to increase female representation for the nation’s parliament as well as State boards. We live in a very interesting time when gender identity as a social construct is very fluid and changes rapidly. As a result, we should not try to box in gender identity into our traditional views of masculinity and femininity.  
Gender identity refers to which sex you feel as if you are on the inside, (male, female, both, neither, flexible) By adhering to a strict code of gender identity we are excluding those persons who call themselves transgender or trans because they were born biologically one sex but emotionally and spiritually another.   Interestingly, the construction of gender identity over the years has undergone many manifestations and continues to evolve. In passing laws to include more women in representational politics and to serve in the public sphere we will be automatically shouting the window on those who see themselves as belonging to the third, fourth and even fifth genders? What will happen if and when Jamaica reaches the point of accepting genders outside of the historical two? The discourse on gender and development is often misunderstood and clearly needs to be expanded to include a wider cross section of views.  We often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably. The average person tends to confuse both terms. Sex refers to one’s biology while gender is a social construct which is expected of the sexes and to which each society and or culture defines for itself.
Yes, there is an urgent need for more female representation in the society. Yes, to gender mainstreaming.  Yes, to gender equality. We need to work towards fostering a gender- expansive environment which will allow for the views of others to be heard and discussed in a meaningful manner before our legislators rush to pass gender quotas. In the words of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan: Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance. 

Wayne Campbell