The parliament, on Thursday, passed the Decentralisation Act with provisions to allocate 33 percent of local council seats for women.
The bill, submitted by Hulhumale MP and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)s Chairperson Ali Niyaz was unanimously approved by 76 MPs after the parliament's decentralisation committee made several amendments.
A chapter focusing on increasing the role of women in local governance was among the amendments. As per the chapter, the role of women on councils must be clearly defined in order to ensure that city councils and island councils are run with female participation and in a manner that their contributions are protected.
In five-member council's, two elected councillers must be women while three seats on seven-member councils must be allocated for women.
As per major changes brought to the Decentralisaton Act, five councillors must be elected for populations below 3,000 while seven councillor must be elected to represent populations numbering above 3,000.
This marks the first time such a quota was introduced for women in Maldives.
The Decentralisation Act was passed excluding a previous amendment which allowed the dismissal of council members, presidents and mayors through a parliament vote. Thinadhoo South MP Abdulla Saneef proposed the annulment of the aforementioned amendment.
However, the Local Government Authority (LGA) was given the right to launch investigations against council members, presidents or mayors and impose a maximum three-month suspension.
Furthermore, the passing of the Decentralisation Act dissolved the current LGA, stipulating that the body must be formed within 30 days of councillors taking their oaths.
If the number of citizens registered in a city falls between 30,000 and 60,000, a total of 13 members including the mayor and female representatives must be elected to the council. Meanwhile, if the population is between 10,000 and 30,000, six councillors must be elected. If the registered population exceeds 60,000 13 members must be elected.
Overall, the Decentralisation Act grants island councils considerable power and financial autonomy. This includes granting island councils the right to all income derived from resources within its jurisdiction as well as revenue created by municipal services. Additionally, five percent of the domestic budget set aside under the state budget is allocated for local councils.