Ex-PM John Howard invites backlash after saying 50-50 gender balance in parliament is unrealistic: ‘Women have limited capacity’

By @chelean on
John Howard
Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard attends a commemoration service on the 20th anniversary of the Port Arthur mass shootings in Tasmania, Australia, April 28, 2016. AAP/Rob Blakers/via Reuters

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard doesn’t believe 50/50 gender split in the parliament is achievable because women still have the greater responsibility of caring for the children.

He was speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday when he was asked about the gender representation in politics. Although Howard said he would like to see more women in the parliament, he doubted an equal number of men and women would be possible.

“You can talk about targets and aspirations and goals and I would like to see a natural process whereby there are more women,” he said. “But I don’t think you will ever sort of have 50-50.”

Howard’s reason was simple: He thinks women have greater responsibility in caretaking, and that therefore limits their capacity in politics.

“It is a fact of society that the caring role, whatever people may say about it and whatever the causes are, women play a significantly greater part of fulfilling the caring role in our communities, which inevitably place some limits on their capacity.”

He was aware that there would be people who might be offended by his comment, but Howard claimed that he only spoke the truth. “Some people may say, ‘What a terrible thing to say.’ It’s not a terrible thing to say; it just happens to be the truth. And occasionally, you’ve just got to recognise that and say it.”

Howard’s Liberal Party currently only has 18 female MPs compared to 66 male MPs, while the Opposition has 42 female Labor MPs and 53 male MPs. Both parties have aimed for 50 percent female MPs by 2025.

As Howard expected, his comments have attracted backlash. Social media commenters note that the former Australian leader was only adding to the gender inequality in the country and setting back women’s role in society and politics.

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