GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - The number of female parliamentarians in the world has more than doubled since the groundbreaking U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, 25 years ago, the Inter-Parliamentary Union said Friday. Part of the reason may be quotas.
While female representation in national parliaments has increased, gender parity remains a distant dream. However, significant changes have occurred. In 1995, the top-ranked country in terms of female members of parliament was Sweden, followed by other Nordic and developed countries.
This year, Rwanda, with more than 60% female MPs, beat 171 other countries for the top spot, followed by Cuba, Bolivia and United Arab Emirates. Sweden has been bumped down to seventh position.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union finds countries in the Americas have made the most progress in terms of representation of women in parliament, followed by Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, and Asia. The Pacific, which holds up the bottom of the rankings, is the only region where some parliaments have no women.
IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong said women fare best in countries that apply quota systems for their representation.
“Wherever quotas are being used during electoral processes, we see an increase in the women’s representation when compared with the countries where there are no quota systems. So, we continue to lay emphasis on the need for quotas to be legislated in order to achieve gender equality,” he said.
Chungong told VOA statistics show strong female participation in parliaments leads to better-designed and -implemented gender equality laws.
“It is more often possible to address some of those issues that may be specific to women; such as, maternal and newborn and child health to be on the agenda, women’s political participation, violence against women, sexism. Those things tend to come to the fore when you have strong women’s participation in parliament,” he said.
Chungong said he believes the MeToo movement could help boost women’s political representation. He said the movement directly confronts sexism, sexual harassment and gender-based violence, which help keep women from seeking and winning electoral office.