Eight years after it was submitted to Parliament, Kaniva News reviews the Constitutional and Electoral Commission Report of 2009 and looks at one of the might-have-beens: Reserved Parliamentary seats for women.

Since 1951 there have been fewer than a dozen women in Tonga’s parliament, many of whom were appointed rather than being elected.

However, although women were almost invisible in Tongan politics, the Constitutional and Electoral Commission recommended against making any special provision for them in Parliament.

In its 2009 report to Parliament, the Commission said there could be no dispute that women were, and always had been, inadequately represented in the Legislative Assembly.

It said this was largely because of entrenched male prejudice.

The Commission noted that a  number of other Island states reserved seats for women.

“The introduction of a special electoral quota would not be new to Tonga; the nobles are already the beneficiaries of such protection,” it said.

However, it cautioned that having reserved seats for women would not necessarily solve the problem.

The ECE report

“Those advocating increased participation by women do not help their cause by the frequent suggestion that, if elected, women representatives would be better able to represent women’s affairs,” the commission said.

“If women have a right to hold positions of influence in public life, including membership of parliament, they have the right to equal consideration for every aspect of the work.

“If the number of women is to be increased, it should be because they have something to contribute in the same fields and on equal terms to their male counterparts.

“If an able and suitable woman who knows she can offer as much as her male counterpart wishes to stand in the election, should she stand for a reserved seat or stand on equal terms with the other candidates on the general list?

“If she takes the first course, she will risk being treated as a second class member of the House and, once the quota is withdrawn, may not have the support of an electorate; if she takes the second, she will face the full force of male prejudice probably reinforced by the charge that she ‘should be’ standing for the ‘women’s seats’.

The Commission cited what it called the special status of women in Tongan society and the benefit of the different world views and perspectives women could bring to Parliament as reasons for supporting the presence of women in the House.

However, it ultimately recommended against having reserved seats for women in Parliament.

“We believe that women in Tonga today are in all ways as well prepared as men to compete for the people’s representative seats.

“Since there are more women voters, what is required is effective campaigning targeting both men and women voters, good organisation and quality women candidates.

“A good candidate, whether a woman or a man, should attract votes from all parts of the spectrum of opinions.

“We hope women will realise that the power effectively to correct their under-representation is in their hands.”


However, for all the Commission’s optimism, women are still under-represented in Parliament and arguments about reserved seats continue.

In last November’s election only two women won seats, Losaline Ma’asi and ‘Akosita Lavulavu, who was re-elected.

After the election there were calls for reserved seats or quotas to get more women into parliament. Equally, however, others saw this as a short term solution and argued the real need was more education to overcome gender stereotyping in Tongan culture.

And New Zealand MP Jenny Salesa, who is of Tongan descent, said women were just as much to blame for opposition to women’s political ambitions.

Following a visit to Tonga to encourage women to stand for election, she said people were phoning a local radio station to say: “Women, their place is in the home. Women shouldn’t be heads of departments. Women shouldn’t be in Parliament. Women shouldn’t make decisions including in business or in Parliament.”

She said about 90 per cent of those calls were from women.

“Before we actually point the finger at others as to why there is not enough female representation, we also ask why it is that we do not support our own,” she said.


  1. Hili ha ta’u ‘e valu hono fakahū ki Fale Alea’ kuo toe hanga ‘e he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva Tonga’ ‘o vakai’i e lipooti ‘a e Komisoni ki he Konisitūtone’ mo e Fili Fale Alea mo sio ki he taha e ngaahi faingamālie na’e mei tonu ke fakahoko ka kuo ‘ikai toe lava.

    Talu mei he 1951 na’e ‘ikai a’u ‘o tōseni e kakai fefine ‘i he Fale Alea’ ko e tokolahi taha ko e fakanofo pe ki he lakanga’ kae ‘ikai ko ha fili atu ‘e he kakai;.

    Kaekehe, neongo na’e mei hangē ‘oku ‘ikai pe ha kakai fefine ia ‘i he politiki ‘a Tonga’, ne ‘ikai poupou’i ‘e he Komisoni’ ia ha faingamālie makehe ma’a kinautolu ‘i Fale Alea.

    ‘I he’ene līpooti ki Fale Alea ‘i he 2009, na’e pehē ‘e he Komisoni’ ‘e ‘ikai ala fakafefekiki’i na’e pea ‘oku lolotonga pehē ma’u pe, ‘oku ‘ikai pe fe’unga ‘a hono fakafofonga’i ‘o na ‘o e kakai fefine’ he Fale Alea’.

    Na’a’ ne pehē na’e tupunga ‘eni mei he mātu’aki fu’u fakakehekehenga ‘a e kakai tangata’.

    Na’e mahino ki he Komisoni’ ‘oku ‘i ai e ngaahi fonua ‘i he ‘otu motu’ ‘oku nau ‘oange ‘a e sea makehe ki honau kakai fefine’.

    Ko hono kamata’i ha kuota fili makehe ‘oku ‘ikai ko ha me’a fo’ou ia ki Tonga, kuo ‘osi ta’imālie ‘a e hou’eiki nōpele’ mei he fa’ahinga faingamālie pehee’.

    Kaekehe na’e tokanga ‘a e Komisoni’ ‘e ‘ikai veteki ‘e ha ngaahi sea makehe ia ‘o e kakai fefine’ ‘a e palopalema’.

    Ko kinautolu ‘oku nau taukave’i ke fakalahi e kau mai ‘a e kakai fefine’ ‘oku ‘ikai ha tokoni ‘enau fa’a fokotu’u mai kapau ‘e fili, ‘e lava ke fakafofonga’i lelei ange ‘e he kau fakafofonga fefine’ ‘a e ngaahi kaveinga fekau’aki mo e kakai fefine’, ko e lau ia ‘a e Komisoni’.

    Kapau ‘oku ‘i ai ha totonu ‘a e kakai fefine’ ke nau ma’u ha ngaahi tu’unga ‘oku’ ne ue’ia e mo’ui ‘a e kakai’, kau ai ‘enau mēmipa ‘i he Fale Alea’ ‘oku ‘i ai ‘enau totonu ki hono fakakaukaua tatau ‘o e fōtunga kotoa ‘o e ngāue’.

    Kapau na’e ‘ai ke fakalahi e fika ‘o e kakai fefine’, ‘oku totonu ke ‘uhinga ia ‘oku ‘i ai ‘enau me’a ke foaki ‘i he mala’e tatau ‘o tatau pe mo e kakai tangata ko honau kaungā fakafofonga’.

    Kapau ‘oku ‘i ai ha fefine lavame’a mo fe’unga ‘oku ne ‘ilo ‘e lava ke fai ‘a e me’a tatau mo ia ‘oku lava ‘e hono kaungā fakafofonga tangata’, ‘oku tonu nai ke hū mai pe ia kuo ‘osi ‘i ai hano sea pau pe ko ‘ene hū mai ‘i he founga tatau pe mo e toenga e kau kanititeiti he lisi.

    Kapau te ne fou he founga ‘uluaki, ‘e tu’u laveangofua ia ki hano takua ia ‘i ha tu’unga ma’olalo ‘i he Fale’, pea ‘i he taimi ka to’o ai ‘a e kuota’, ‘e lava ke ‘ikai ke ne toe ma’u e poupou ‘a e vāhenga fili’, kapau te ne to’o ‘a e fika ua’, te ne fehangahangai ia mo e mafatukituki ‘o e fakakehekehenga ‘a e kakai tangata’ ‘o lava ke toe fakamamafa’i ia ‘aki ‘a e ‘uhinga na’e tonu ke hū ia ‘i he sea ‘o e kakai fefine’.

    Na’e lave ‘a e Komisoni’ ki he tu’unga makehe ‘o e kakai fefine’ ‘i he sōsaieti Tonga’ mo e lelei ngaahi lelei kehekehe ‘o e ngaahi vakai mo e fakakaukau fakamāmani ‘e lava ‘e he kakai fefine’ ‘o ‘omai ki he Fale Alea’ ko ha ‘uhinga ia ke poupou’i’aki hano fakafofonga’i makehe e kakai fefine’ he fale’.

    Neongo ia na’e mātu’aki fokotu’u pe ‘e he Komisoni’ ke ‘oua na’a ‘i ai ha sea makehe ma’a e kakai fefine’ ‘i Fale Alea.

    Na’e tui e komisoni’ ko e kakai fefine Tonga ‘o e ‘aho ni’ kuo nau mateuteu tatau pe mo e kakai tangata’ ke fe’auhi ki he sea kotoa ‘o e kakai’ ‘i Fale Alea’.

    Koe’uhī ‘oku lahi ange kau vouta fefine’ ko e me’a ‘oku fie ma’u’ ko ha founga kemipeini lelei ma’a kinautolu ‘e lava ke tāketi’i ‘a e kakai tangata mo fefine vouta’, fokotu’utu’u mo ‘i ai ha kau kaniteiti fefine kualitī lelei.

    Ko e kanititeiti lelei’, tatau pe pe ko e fefine pe tangata, ‘oku totonu ke ma’u ha’anau ngaahi fo’i fili mei he tapa kotoa ‘oku fakakaukaua e fili’.

    Ko e ivi mo e mafai ki he lava ‘o fakatonutonu e fakakaukau ‘o e si’i hono fakafofonga’i ‘a e kakai fefine’ he Fale Alea’ ‘oku ‘i he kakai fefine’ pe ia, ko e lau ia ‘a e Komisoni’.