Memo – Gender (quota vs. reservation systems)

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The excerpt “Is gender like ethnicity? The political representation of minority groups” by Mala Htun seeks to analyze the politics of gender and ethnicity and how it impacts various electoral systems ; thereafter, introducing the best system to represent gender and ethnicity¹. Gender is considered a crosscutting group; therefor, it does not necessarily coincide with other social structures, class and geography. According to the author gender is best represented using the quota system, which can either be legislature-wide or within the parties¹. Countries around the globe have introduced quota systems hoping that they will mend the unequal representation of women in legislatures. Contrary to the later, coinciding identities increase party membership and voting patterns; these coinciding identities are best compatible with the use of a reservation system. A reservation system is one which alters the electoral system to bring about more fairness¹.

In July of 2012 the Irish parliament passed the Electoral Act². This act includes a candidate selection provision which encourages political parties to select at least 30 per cent female candidates and at least 30 per cent male candidates. If parties fail to meet quotas they will lose 50 per cent of the state funding to run their operations². This quota was adopted in response to low female representation in government². According to a study by The London School of Economics the representation of quotas has improved between the 2011 and 2016 election with the implementation of the quota in between the two².

Could quota systems be diminishing the role of women in a form of reverse discrimination?

Quota systems can help nations in which cultural norms make it harder for women to obtain equal opportunities. For example, in the UK women like Theresa May hold high ranking positions, and it is normal in UK culture to see women in the workplace — maybe quotas are effective. In places like India and Nigeria, women are not as valued through cultural norms, making it harder for women to obtain equal opportunities. In Nigeria and India, however,  since there are so many different ethnic group a Reservation system may be the most appropriate to represent the most amount of people. Quotas may not always be as effective as in the UK, some societies like China have a culture of having a strong divide between gender roles. Chinese girls are thought to be less important that a Chinese boy.

¹ Htun, Mala. “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups.” Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 3 (2004): 439–58. Found in Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. P255-268.

² Buckley, Fiona. “The 2016 Irish election demonstrated how gender quotas can shift the balance on female representation” The London School of Economics.

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