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NextGen Magazine


Report: Decades of Gender Quotas in Latin America Fail to Improve Female Representation in Politics

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 10, 2021
iStock-484693620 Women Gender Power

While many countries in Latin America have had established quotas for female party members and candidates, representation remains low for women in politics, as many organizations have actively circumvented these quotas, Bloomberg reported..

The article noted that while many countries in the region have mandated 40 percent or 50 percent participation for decades, women occupy less than a third of positions in the cabinets and legislatures of Latin American countries. If looking at lower chamber legislative seats alone, the only countries with 50 percent or more participation by women are Cuba, Nicaragua and Mexico; expanding this list to include those that have at least 40 percent participation adds only Bolivia, Costa Rica, Argentina and Peru. 

In Brazil at least, one way that parties circumvent the quota is by running essentially sham women candidates who serve only to fill the quota. Bloomberg noted that, in the 2018 elections, 35 percent of women candidates to the lower chamber got fewer than 320 votes from 107 million voters. In the same year, Mexico’s Electoral Institute suspended 17 male candidates for Oaxaca’s state legislature for posing as transgender women to dodge the gender rule.

Some countries, observing the lack of progress, are preparing to enhance their programs with additional regulations. Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador all reject ballot registrations that are not 50 percent female. However, even in this case, female politicians still have to contend with a wider cultural force that prioritizes and values masculinity as an end unto itself. Because of this cultural bias, many female candidates have not received as many donations as their male counterparts. More alarmingly, female lawmakers have been harassed, threatened and, in one case, outright murdered.

Still, Bloomberg notes that the new efforts at gender parity are signs that these countries take seriously wider female inclusion in politics, and they have already borne several victories. For example, 10 countries this year have made existing quotes more effective. Costa Rica, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador now reject the registration of ballots that aren't 50 percent female.