Women gain political ground in Latin America, World

More women than ever hold seats in parliaments around the world, says the Inter-Parliamentary Union [IPU]. Women now constitute nearly 17 % of parliamentarians now, up from 11.3 % 12 years ago. The IPU’s analysis is based on information provided by National Parliaments by 31 January 2007, and does not include elections held later than January.

Especially in the Gulf States, the Middle East and Latin America, the increases in the numbers of women were ‘remarkable.’ There were 20 elections in all in Latin America last year. According to the IPU, Costa Rica is in the top three countries with the most women in its government. Women now make up 38.6 % of Costa Rican parliamentarians, with 22 women elected.

Anders Johnsson, secretary general of the IPU, said that women are not only standing for election in greater numbers than before, they are getting elected, thanks in part to quota systems. In a total of 23 countries with gender quotas last year, women took 21.7 % of seats compared with 11.8 % in countries without.

More women are presiding officers of parliament than ever before: a total of 35 out of 262 worldwide, with a record number of women elected speakers. Women heads of government more than doubled last year, with six elected in 2006 alone, including Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Of the women who won seats in 2006, 1,459 were directly elected, 63 were indirectly elected, and 35 were appointed. A total of 9,335 seats were contested in 2006, with women capturing 16.7 % of seats.

However, Johnsson said, the rate at which women have been making gains has slowed. "The increase in the number of women is slower than it was in the preceding year. If we are aiming for equality in parliament — in other words, roughly 50 % men and 50 % women — we will wait until the year 2077 to celebrate that event."

Information from "World’s women gain political ground." CBC News. (Thurs, March 1, 2007)