By: Surbhi Mahajan
Wavel Ramkalawan, an Anglican priest, won presidency. This was the first opposition victory in four decades since independence from Britain. The election is also being hailed as “major milestone in Seychelles’s democracy”.
In Seychelles, the president is elected by absolute majority through universal adult suffrage. There is a second round between the top two candidates if no candidate receives absolute majority. Presidential elections every 5 years, but not necessarily concurrently.
Women’s rights are enshrined in the constitution (1993), including the right to political participation. They gained the right to vote and to stand for election on August 6, 1948. In 2016, Alexia Amesbury became the first woman to run for President.
Women’s Political Participation
Women’s presence in governments is considered an important indicator of equal representation and participation for better democratic governance as well as advancing gender equality.
However, women’s presence in the parliament in Seychelles has seen a decline over the years. Prior to the introduction of the multi-party democracy, women made up 41% of the elected national assembly members. Historically, “Seychelles was the fifth-highest country in the world in terms of women in its parliament...” That changed in 1993 with the re-introduction of multi-party politics which has somehow kept women’s representation below 30%. Seychelles does not have a gender quota. The country noted in the 2011 CEDAW submission that quotas are unnecessary since there are ‘no legal barriers’ to participation in political, social and economic activities. In the absence of any legal quotas to further women's representation, national representation levels of women have fluctuated since the multi-party elections of 1993 when women formed 27% of the members of the National Assembly to 24% in 1998, up to 29.4% in 2002 and then down to 23.5% in 2007. Since 2016, the percentage of women has been 21.2% 933 from a whopping 43.8% in 2011, lowest in over 20 years.
The fall in the number of women parliamentarians has been attributed to the lack of any special mechanism to sustain the gains that had been achieved in this domain. “An Action Group of Women Parliamentarians was set up in 2000 to provide support and mentor potential young women politicians, but it has been relatively inactive.”
In the larger scenario of women’s rights and addressing the challenges to gender equality, Seychelles certainly ticks all the right boxes. It ratified CEDAW in 1992 and the Maputo Protocol in 2006. It is one of the few African countries which has demonstrated its commitment in promoting gender equality, whether in its stance on sexual and reproductive rights (no legal, social, or cultural barriers to accessing modern methods of contraception), or its education policy ensuring universal access to education as a fundamental right, or land ownership rights, a reality that can only be possible when strong institutional, policy and legal frameworks are in place. These measures have been crucial in promoting women’s rights in Seychelles.
Women Representation Statistics
|Women Political Representation||2016||2020|
|Female Members of Parliament||
As in many countries, patriarchal norms continue to determine and limit women’s participation in public and political life. Despite a perceived egalitarian culture in Seychellois society and an absence of direct discrimination against women candidates, traditional beliefs about women’s appropriate roles persist.