Perth, Oct 28: A centuries-old bias against women in the succession to the British throne is set to end, with the 16 Commonwealth nations that owe allegiance to it agreeing to change the law that gives precedence to sons over daughters.
The 16 ‘nations of the realm’, where the current British monarch is head of state, also decided Friday that the ban on a monarch being married to a Roman Catholic would also be lifted.
The changes were announced by British Prime Minister David Cameron at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) here.
Cameron, who said he wanted to make an important announcement, said: ‘The idea a younger son should become monarch instead of an elder daughter simply because he’s a man or that a future monarch can marry someone of any faith except a Catholic – this way of thinking is at odds with the modern countries we have become.’
‘Put simply, if the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were to have a little girl, that girl would one day be our queen.’
The new laws, when adopted, would overturn the current 300-year-old succession laws, where the heir to the throne is the first-born son of the reigning monarch. A daughter can become queen only when the monarch has no sons — as in the case of the current Queen’s father George VI.
The 16 nations of the realm in the Commonwealth are: Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Papua New Guinea, St Christopher and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Tuvalu, Barbados, Grenada, Solomon Islands, St Lucia and the Bahamas.
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who addressed the media along with Cameron, described the move as ‘historic’, adding: ‘I’m very enthusiastic about it. You would expect the first Australian woman prime minister to be very enthusiastic about a change which equals equality for women in a new area.’
‘We should not underestimate (the new laws’) historical significance, changing as they will for all time the way in which the monarchy works and changing its history,’ she added.