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Will there be a Gender Ministry in the new cabinet?

June 30, 2010

The mass resignation of the entire Cabinet of the Maldives has shocked the country and created an intense debate on the possible implications of this staged political drama. Speculation is rife about the possible changes that would be brought to the new Cabinet. While it is too early to say whether President Nasheed would choose to appoint fresh faces to the Cabinet, it is a timely and relevant question to ask if there will be any new portfolios in the Cabinet.

One of the changes that the first democratically elected government of the Maldives brought to the Cabinet, after assuming office in November 2008, was abolishing the Gender Ministry. The roles and functions of the former Gender Ministry were assigned to a Department running under the Ministry of Health. It remains debatable whether this department has been able to function according to its mandate, protect the women and children of the Maldives, and counter the rising tide of misogyny and violence against women.

At a time when the fate of this department itself is uncertain, perhaps it could be wishful thinking to hope for a Gender Ministry in the structure of the next Cabinet. It could also be a mere wish to think there would be no Islamic Ministry in the new Cabinet, even though the ministry — handcrafted for the political ambitions of a particular political party — has created so much divisions in our society. The least we could hope for is to have more women in the next Cabinet of the Maldivian government, rather than the lone face of Aminath Jameel, heading the Ministry of Health, and that spineless department assigned with the gigantic task of protecting the Maldivian women.

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