Electoral quotas and women’s rights
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Electoral gender quotas, which aim to increase either the proportion of women candidates or political representatives, are currently used in over a hundred countries around the world. In most cases quota measures have been adopted over the past two decades. This chapter shows that the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action fundamentally changed the international discourse on the diagnosis of women’s underrepresentation in politics and thus the solutions to it. As opposed to waiting for women to incrementally “catch up” with men, quotas represent a fast-track approach to increasing women’s representation in politics. Significantly, the use of electoral gender quotas means that the Global South has now overtaken the Global North as world leaders in women’s parliamentary representation. This is a rapid turnaround on the situation just 20 years ago where the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands were at the top of the world rankings for women’s representation. Despite there being resistance to their adoption and full implementation in most contexts, this chapter argues that electoral gender quotas have significantly advanced women’s access to parliamentary politics at a global level. The use of proportional representation (PR) continues to progress women’s representation to a much greater extent than plurality/majoritarian systems, and PR systems are generally more facilitating of quota implementation. Voluntary party quotas can be as effective as legal quotas if the right institutional and ideological factors are present. When properly implemented, quotas obstruct highly male-dominated recruitment patterns by encouraging or requiring parties to select increased numbers of women candidates or representatives.
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