January 28th, 2019
In her article, Mala Htun investigates the disparities in policies aiming to bridge the gap of genders and ethnicities in politics. She notices that there is a pattern across the world, that reserved seats are mostly for minority ethnic groups, while policies only require party candidates quota for women members. This is due to, according to Htun, the definition of gender and ethnicities. Gender is a cross-cutting social cleavage, which divides across other social and political cleavages. They suffer from discrimination within the group, and because so benefit from the quota system. Ethnic groups are, on the other hand, coinciding cleavages, and will be severely underrepresented if not given reserved seats.
Last week, the leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker resigns after periods of struggling in the UK. The party has been offering unprecedented support for women candidates, namely childcare provided for all party members. However, the resignation, according to Walker, does not signify a step back in empowerment or movement for women’s rights. She is taking a break and inviting other women to join her in a high position, after a series of success as well as expected failures.
Does a separate party for women worsen or enhance women’s rights? How will the UK’s first-past-the-post system affect the longevity of this party?
Mala Htun would likely not encourage the existence of a women’s party, since she believes that using cross-cutting social cleavages, providing women opportunities within the party will be more beneficial to women’s representation. However, this kind of party formation has never been seen before. There have been many steps that the government has taken to increase the representation of women, and other kinds of efforts in other countries have been used to raise women’s equality, but not a separate party. The effect of this party will have to be examined in the near future.
Mala Htun, “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups,” Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017), 49-50.
Eva Wiseman, ” ‘Democracy is broken’: Women’s Equality party leader tells why she quit,” The Guardians (January 2019).
“It’s Election Season in Nigeria, But Where Are The Women?,” UN Women (February 6, 2019).