Speaker of the House of Assembly, Julian Willock has called for parliament’s Standing Orders - which are the policies that govern the House - to be amended for gender neutrality.
Willock made that call last Friday after Territorial At-Large Representative Shereen Flax-Charles accused Opposition Leader, Marlon Penn of continuously referring to her as ‘he’ while making a brief address in the House.
“The member (Penn), is referring to everything as ‘he’, and the last time I checked, I am not a ‘he’,” Flax-Charles said while responding to the Opposition Leader’s statement.
The Speaker, however, came to Penn’s defence, clarifying that he was merely citing an excerpt from the House’s Standing Orders document verbatim.
Penn also added to the conversation, arguing that the interpretation of the word ‘he’ is gender-neutral whenever it is mentioned in the Standing Orders.
Willock then stated: “I am going to call now on the Standing Orders Committee to fix the Standing Order so that it says ‘he or she’. So, I’m not relying on any interpretation.”
In response, Flax-Charles said she expects the language of the document to be corrected expeditiously.
Previous appeal months ago
This, however, is not the first occasion that a call has been made for the language of the House of Assembly’s Standing Orders to become more gender-sensitive. Second District Representative Melvin ‘Mitch’ Turnbull had made a similar call late last year.
“I believe the time has come. I believe we are far past the time where we address the gender equality, the gender discrimination and the sensitivity to how the language of the Standing Orders and even the constitution is written,” Turnbull said at the time, adding that words such as ‘his’ and ‘chairman’ should be amended “to take into consideration the evolving nature and development … [of] women taking office”.
It has been more than six months since he made that statement.
Three women are among the total 13 legislators that make up the House of Assembly.