The promise of democratic equality has not arrived for women.
In all societies said to be democratic, women have had an arduous struggle and are still fighting for access to rights common to any male citizen, for example an equal salary for equal work, promotion opportunities, the right to physical integrity, and access to work. Gaining the right to vote and the right to run for office as elected representatives has not in practice meant the right to be elected under the same conditions as men (Petit 2007). In the immense majority of representative democracies, women are far from having won political equality. The huge difficulty that women face in being elected places in check the democratic commitment of societies who claim to be democracies. It also raises questions about the gap between the normative discourse on equality that exists in the majority of constitutional texts, in which the formal inclusion of women is explicitly stated, and the realities of women’s continued political exclusion. In this article, I reflect on the implications of debates about seeking parity of political representation as a means of achieving formal equality between women and men in the political arena, and the use of quotas as an instrument of achieving this.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 41.5 (2010) Quotas as a Path to Parity: Challenges to Women’s Participation in Politics