Thursday, 26 March 2009

Women, politics and religion

I took a taxi home a few nights* ago. I knew the driver (I know many of the local taxi drivers :) and during the short journey we usually enjoy a serious but light hearted conversation, if that makes sense. It's not unknown for us to continue, parked at the roadside, to round off a discussion.

My friend, though a cab driver, is well educated, intelligent and widely traveled. He is also a devout Moslem. I am not, but even though we are on either side of a wide divide, we both enjoy these exchanges. Well I do and I'm sure it's mutual. We talk about science or politics or music or the news or whatever. Or religion, quite often. Usually we share a laugh about our ability to 'agree to disagree'.

Good banter... Until the other night when I asked about the position of women under sharia law. Out of the blue came "women are no good at running countries".

I hit back with Magrat Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto which seemed to cause a sharp intake of breath, and damn! I was home, and we couldn't carry on because of parked cars and traffic. Next time...

To make my own position clear:

I believe in equality between all people. Black, white, brown, olive, yellow, red, green, blue or orange. Male, female, non-gendered, cross-gendered, medically re-gendered, transsexual, transvestite, bisexual, homosexual, lesbian, hermaphrodite or those who have suffered desexualization by disease, accident or Bobbitt. Rich or poor, strong or weak. Educated, streetwise or neither, healthy or ill, young or old, religious or atheistic, sober or drunk we should all be equal under the law of the land.
J.A. Holroyd 26.03.09
Now I have had time to think, and look-up female presidents and prime ministers etc, I should have started with Pharaoh Hatshepsut of Egypt.

Below the belt, as a memory jogger for myself, I reproduce this list from of women political leaders from 1960 to 2000ish.

  1. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka
    Prime Minister, 1960-1965, 1970-1977, 1994-2000.
  2. Indira Gandhi, India
    Prime Minister, 1966-77, 1980-1984.
  3. Golda Meir, Israel
    Prime Minister, 1969-1974.
  4. Isabel Peron, Argentina
    President, 1974-1976
  5. Elisabeth Domitien, Central African Republic
    Prime Minister, 1975-1976
  6. Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain
    Prime Minister, 1979-1990.
  7. Maria da Lourdes Pintasilgo, Portugal
    Prime Minister, 1979-1980.
  8. Lidia Gueiler Tejada, Bolivia
    Prime Minister, 1979-1980.
  9. Dame Eugenia Charles, Dominica
    Prime Minister, 1980-1995.
  10. Vigdís Finnbogadóttír, Iceland
    President, 1980-96.
  11. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Norway
    Prime Minister, 1981, 1986-1989, 1990-1996.
  12. Soong Ching-Ling, Peoples' Republic of China
    Honorary President, 1981.
  13. Milka Planinc, Yugoslavia
    Federal Prime Minister, 1982-1986.
  14. Agatha Barbara, Malta
    President, 1982-1987.
  15. Maria Liberia-Peters, Netherlands Antilles
    Prime Minister, 1984-1986, 1988-1993.
  16. Corazon Aquino, Philippines
    President, 1986-92.
  17. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan
    Prime Minister, 1988-1990, 1993-1996.
  18. Kazimiera Danuta Prunskiena, Lithuania
    Prime Minister, 1990-91.
  19. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, Nicaragua
    Prime Minister, 1990-1996.
  20. Mary Robinson, Ireland
    President, 1990-1997.
  21. Ertha Pascal Trouillot, Haiti
    Interim President, 1990-1991.
  22. Sabine Bergmann-Pohl, German Democratic Republic
    President, 1990.
  23. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar (Burma)
    Her party won 80% of the seats in a democratic election in 1990, but the military government refused to recognize the results. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
  24. Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh
    Prime Minister, 1991-1996.
  25. Edith Cresson, France
    Prime Minister, 1991-1992.
  26. Hanna Suchocka, Poland
    Prime Minister, 1992-1993.
  27. Kim Campbell, Canada
    Prime Minister, 1993.
  28. Sylvie Kinigi, Burundi
    Prime Minister, 1993-1994.
  29. Agathe Uwilingiyimana, Rwanda
    Prime Minister, 1993-1994.
  30. Susanne Camelia-Romer, Netherlands Antilles
    Prime Minister, 1993, 1998-
  31. Tansu Çiller, Turkey
    Prime Minister, 1993-1995.
  32. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, Sri Lanka
    Prime Minister, 1994, President, 1994-
  33. Reneta Indzhova, Bulgaria
    Interim Prime Minister, 1994-1995.
  34. Claudette Werleigh, Haiti
    Prime Minister, 1995-1996.
  35. Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Bangladesh
    Prime Minister, 1996-.
  36. Mary McAleese, Ireland
    President, 1997-.
  37. Pamela Gordon, Bermuda
    Premier, 1997-1998.
  38. Janet Jagan, Guyana
    Prime Minister, 1997, President, 1997-1999.
  39. Jenny Shipley, New Zealand
    Prime Minister, 1997-1999.
  40. Ruth Dreifuss, Switzerland
    President, 1999-2000.
  41. Jennifer Smith, Bermuda
    Prime Minister, 1998-.
  42. Nyam-Osoriyn Tuyaa, Mongolia
    Acting Prime Minister, July 1999.
  43. Helen Clark, New Zealand
    Prime Minister, 1999-.
  44. Mireya Elisa Moscoso de Arias, Panama
    President, 1999-.
  45. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, Latvia
    President, 1999-.
  46. Tarja Kaarina Halonen, Finland
    President, 2000-.

I've included Tarja Kaarina Halonen because, by most reckonings, the year 2000 is actually part of the 20th century. (The year "0" didn't exist, so a century starts with the year "1" - or so the logic goes.) As the 21st century arrived, yet another was added: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo - President of the Philippines, sworn in on January 20, 2001. Mame Madior Boye became Prime Minister in Senegal in March of 2001. Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of founding head of state Sukarno, was selected as Indonesia's fifth president in 2001 after losing in 1999. We can only hope that many others will be on a list of Women Presidents and Prime Ministers for the 21st century. I've limited this list, however, to the history of women heads of state for the 20th century, and will not add anyone who took office after 2001.

* It wasn't 1001 nights.

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