The Maldives parliament on Monday appointed its first female secretary general.
Fathmath Niusha, who had been standing in for the secretary general since his resignation in February, was appointed with the votes of 33 lawmakers from the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).
Niusha is the first woman to lead the secretarial duties of majlis (parliament) since the formation of its secretariat in 1971.
Her predecessor, Ahmed Mohamed, resigned “for personal reasons” following the political crisis that led to the arrest and detention of former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two Supreme Court justices.
Speaker Abdulla Maseeh said that only Niusha had applied when applications were opened for the position. She was vetted by a committee selected by the speaker, who recommended her appointment.
Niusha, who studied at the Australian National University and the International Islamic University of Malaysia, has a law degree and been majlis deputy secretary general since 2012.
Women in the Maldives remain underrepresented in the political sphere.
Just five out of the country’s 85 parliamentarians are women. There are only 40 female councillors, out of 653, and there are just 22 women serving as ministers, state ministers or deputy ministers.
Monday’s first majlis session parliamentary session was delayed for hours due to a lack of quorum.
Once under way the speaker announced the vote for the secretary general appointment, and the first reading of an amendment bill to the Jails and Parole Act was proposed.
The amendment bill proposes renaming the Maldives Correctional Service to “National Prison Service” and gives it the responsibility of overseeing all centres where prisoners will be held including jails, remand jails and detention centres. That function is currently fulfilled by the police.
New additions to the law also focus on administrative issues, giving the prison service powers to enact regulations and procedures in jail supervision.
No MPs talked about the amendments at the first debate stage, but parliament passed a motion to forward them to the committee stage for further debate.
The parliament session – with voting – lasted around 10 minutes.
This article has been updated.