There are plenty of good yardsticks for the state of women’s rights around theworld. Parliamentary representation isn’t one of them.
BY JOSHUA FOUST, MELINDA HARING | JUNE 25, 2012
published its annual infographic about the dearth of women in
parliaments around the world. Not surprisingly, some of the most-developed countries --Sweden, Germany, New Zealand -- top the charts. (Also present are two African countries,Rwanda and South Africa, that have mandated parliamentary quotas for women.)Equitable representation of women in politics and government is an ideal promoted by everydevelopment organization and to which every Western government aspires. Though womencomprise over 50 percent of the world's population, they are underrepresented as political leadersand elected officials. The National Democratic Institute puts it plainly: "Democracy cannot truly
deliver for all of its citizens if half of the population remains underrepresented in the politicalarena."There's a problem with this argument, though: There's no evidence to support it. In Cuba, womenMPs comprise 45 percent of the parliament. Yet, in a country where women make up nearly half of the parliament, democracy is not "truly delivering for all of its citizens." And so it goes inmany repressive states. They may have plenty of women in power but lag far behind on everymeaningful index of democracy.The Eurasia region illustrates this uncomfortable reality all too well. In Azerbaijan, 16 percent of MPs are female, but every single female MP is a member of the ruling New
Party,which loyally rubber-stamps every decree issued by strongman Ilham Aliyev. In fact, theparliament of Azerbaijan is entirely dominated by one party; there are zero opposition parties inparliament. In other words, there isn't any
parity. Does the number of women matter in afake parliament?It is simplistic to assume that the mere presence of women in a parliament corresponds to greaterpolitical representation.What's missing from the focus on women's political participation -- in Azerbaijan and elsewhere-- is political party affiliation. The point of getting women into parliament is to increase