Quotas: Changing the Way Things Look without Changing the Way Things Are


This paper argues that while quotas can quite easily be used rapidly to address the problem of insufficient numbers of women in representative political institutions, effective representation requires us to pay attention to far more than merely the numbers of women present. This article suggests that, in particular, we need to look at which kinds of women are made present by quotas, how these women gain office and what they do once they are there. Using the South African example as a case in point, the paper suggests that where women become representatives through mechanisms controlled by party political hierarchies rather than by way of more broad-based political processes reflecting real social change, quotas can act to legitimate and perpetuate women’s actual absence of power rather than being an effective remedy.

Women continue to be under-represented in the political elites of representative democracies around the world. In response, a strategy which is much in vogue is that of the use of quotas to redress imbalances. This paper argues that despite their much-heralded successes, and here the South African example is a case in point, quotas are a blunt instrument. Quotas are essentially about numbers. They are concerned with how many people belonging to a certain category are present but they mean little in the absence of being able to answer three further questions which are here referred to as: ‘what’ questions (what do these people do once they are present?), ‘which’ questions (which women exactly are present?) and ‘how’ questions (how do they come to be present in the first instance?). Using the South African example, the paper tries to show why these further questions are important, what they reveal and why the achievements and successes of quotas can sometimes obscure the answers to these further questions. Despite the many difficulties faced by women in South Africa, quotas appear to be very much the key campaign of the moment, as in many other parts of the world. South Africa’s Gender Advocacy Project and its Commission on Gender Equality have both identified as their central focus
Louise Vincent is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Studies at Rhodes University, South Africa. The Journal of Legislative Studies, Vol.10, No.1, Spring 2004, pp.71–96 ISSN 1357-2334 print=1743-9337 online DOI: 10.1080=1357233042000318882 # 2004 Taylor & Francis Ltd.



what is known as the Fifty –Fifty campaign, which aims to increase women’s representation in parliament to 50 per cent. The ruling ANC, for its part, through Essop Pahad, the minister responsible for gender issues in the President’s Office, has expressed an interest in ‘opening a debate’ on introducing a legislated quota for women in parliament (the ANC’s current 30 per cent quota is a voluntary step taken by the party and is not a policy of any of the other parliamentary parties). Responding to opposition from other parties in the legislature to the ‘zebra principle’, Pahad has commented: ‘I am quite convinced that it is in the national interest to move in this direction’.1 In contrast to the view expressed by Pahad, the present article argues that while the symbolic arguments for quotas which have to do with providing role models and ensuring greater legitimacy in a polity can be sustained, more substantive policy outcomes are contingent on the presence of other enabling factors.

Quotas for women entail that women must constitute a certain number or percentage of the members of a body, whether it is a candidate list, a parliamentary assembly, a committee, or a government. The quota system places the burden of recruitment not on the individual woman, but on those who control the recruitment process. The core idea behind this system is to recruit women in to political positions and to ensure that women are not isolated in political life . . . [Q]uota systems aim at ensuring that women constitute at least a ‘critical minority’ of 30 or 40 per cent.2 There are many different arguments for quotas and numerous ways of categorising these arguments.3 For our purposes, a reasonable overview would be to say that these arguments are of three possible types: normative, consequentialist and symbolic. The aim of the present study is to do two things simultaneously: the first is to suggest that there are theoretical difficulties with sustaining logically any of the arguments for quotas, particularly if one accepts the critique of essentialism. The paper argues that the one argument that has some veracity, namely the symbolic argument, is not frequently invoked as the most important reason for adopting the quota by the advocates of the latter and has political implications which are much less far-reaching than would be the case if either of the other two arguments could be sustained. The second aim of this article is to say that even if the essentialist critique is overlooked, empirical observation does not yield the evidence that is needed if the consequentialist claims are to be upheld. The Normative Argument/The Argument from Justice The first argument offered by some proponents of a quota for women is normative: fairness and equality require that women be present in decision-making

QUOTAS 73 structures. while politically seductive. the remedy of changing the composition of representative bodies through direct political intervention. The difficulty. is not just with the fact that there are all kinds of women but with the fact that the kinds of women who tend to be present in political elites are frequently drawn from a very narrow layer of women. Moreover. In Africa. say in a national parliament. the vast majority of women are not educated beyond primary level. It is. . most are from quite a small number of elite political families. if this is the ailment. Or women are said to be more likely to vote for other women and so a quota will have the consequence of greater popularity for a party among female voters. The Consequentialist Arguments The second set of arguments offered by the advocates of quota systems are based on the consequences that will follow from having a larger number of women present. To say that a particular woman or even several women are present is not to say that rural women or lesbian women or illiterate women are present and there is nothing about women that simply by being women makes them aware of what it means to be these other kinds of women. if indeed they are educated at all. appears ill-placed. The immediate problem with any of these arguments is their underlying essentialism. moreover. Precisely those features of society which lead to the distortion in the first place make it impossible for the presence of women. However. in other words. for example. in the absence of other far-reaching measures. for example. gender parity is simply a matter of justice. Or in another form it is said that women have different interests to men and these can only be represented in the political process if women are present. This second argument takes various forms.4 The fact that the make-up of political elites is distorted in gendered ways points us to the likely existence of some form of injustice or discrimination in society. Yet female representatives tend to be educated to tertiary level. Such intervention would seem to be an effective way of simply masking more effectively the injustice which is rendered more transparent by distorted patterns of representation. quotas will mean that more women are in power and this will result in different policy outcomes to reflect women’s concerns better. to make much difference at all. This is something upon which we might all quite easily agree. window-dressing. It is genuinely impossible to find any substantive common ground in the way in which middle-class white South African women and rural African women experience childbirth. If there is an argument to be made for it then the argument must rest on the assumption that presence leads to other changes and whether or not it does is then open to empirical investigation.

more co-operative. female politicians are often precisely those people who through circumstances or attitude have not had these experiences. women) ‘the feeling that they are present on the political scene through the representatives’ personal characteristics’.74 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES A different kind of consequentialist argument is that women have a different approach to politics so that their presence will lead to positive changes in the political culture. more prepared to listen to others. that women raise the moral tenor of politics. and which purportedly produces in those who perform these roles a particular approach to politics. they place women in positions of power and this makes other women feel that they have role models.6 The difficulty with this is that many women who enter politics are able to do so precisely because either they are not overburdened with care or their attitude to and experience of the kinds of caring roles which are supposed uniquely to equip them to make a difference are not ideal-typical. that women bring with them a different. for example. and more generous.7 This too is open to empirical investigation (do people in fact have this feeling as a result of the presence of women?) but of a different kind. to find themselves in roles of care and this in turn creates in the majority of women a particular set of dispositions. advocates frequently invoke a social pattern in which women happen. scale of values. The Symbolic Arguments The third argument is symbolic: quotas are a public demonstration of a society’s commitment to equality. that women will be less competitive. In this view. and from the intimacy and empathy that derives from such relationships. female professionals typically have other women performing their care responsibilities rather there being any widespread challenge of the fact that these are seen as their responsibilities in the first place. frequently. So whereas the ethic of care supposedly emerges from the experience of being fully responsible over long periods of time for young children. and often more specifically with their role as mothers. or at least have not had them in quite the way that is suggested by many of the essentialist and idealised portrayals of how women mother and subsequently participate in politics. that the political process is legitimate. that they are not excluded. In South Africa. namely its capacity to increase legitimacy . It is often suggested. Jane Mansbridge makes a stronger argument for the purely symbolic aspect of descriptive representation.5 In order to escape the obvious essentialism in this sort of account. These arguments are always associated with women’s role as caring for others. quotas are not so much about representing interests as about giving people (in this case.

racial discrimination was always what defined South Africa under apartheid and continues to do so. which and what questions’ – in other words. which women are present and what they do once they are present. only a total of 15 women were elected to parliament.8 This is a powerful argument not least because it is contextual – the point made is that in certain contexts. the ANC as the party of liberation commands enormous (almost exclusive) legitimacy among the black majority and in the minds of most of the black electorate what is important is being represented by a member of the party. and in particular by a black person. For this reason. constitutional designers and individual voters have a reason to institute policies that promote descriptive representation. a peculiar set of circumstances has led to the national parliament having a greater number of women present than most in the world. However. particularly poorer women. or in political party hierarchies. Indeed. and exclusion of. But applied in the South African context the argument raises difficult questions. private or economic spheres. despite this glaring reality. we need to look at how women come to be present in greater numbers. this achievement is not mirrored in the social. achieved through the mechanism of quotas. class or gender identity of those for whom they vote since voters make their mark next to the name and symbol of a party rather than a list of candidates. can make a real difference in society and politics is contingent on a number of further factors which are here delineated as ‘how. in local or provincial government.QUOTAS 75 in contexts of past discrimination: in contexts of ‘low de facto legitimacy. giving scant opportunity for a politics of identity to play a significant role in electioneering. THE ‘HOW’ QUESTIONS In South Africa. Whether or not the presence of women. Campaigning in this system is along the lines of party alone. the party list electoral system leaves most voters entirely in the dark about the race. In South Africa. the idea of using a quota system to improve the representation of women in political structures began to be mooted during the 1980s in ANC . even when such implementation involves some losses in the implementation of other valued ideals’. Clearly there is a history of discrimination against. cite gender as being important in their voting decision-making. Few black women. However. For the first 40 years of white women’s enfranchisement in South Africa. namely where there has been a history of discrimination and exclusion. women. it is important to shift perceptions both on the part of members of an excluded group and on the part of the advantaged groups and having members of the disadvantaged present in representative structures can help to do this.

in some Arab countries for example. the issue was again raised by the ANC’s Women’s League which demanded 30 per cent women’s representation in elected positions within the ANC. secondly. combined with the added power accorded that party to determine candidates in a proportional representation. On the one hand.9 The point is made again a little differently in an editor’s note later in the chapter: It is worthwhile noting that some governments. When the country began to move towards negotiations for democratisation from the early 1990s. How the quota comes into being and how it is implemented are crucial questions which will play a large role in determining the exact dimensions and shape of the political space that is opened up for women as the result of quota measures. as the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament referred . it reflects also the core weakness of quotas. since men must create spaces for women. totally controlled by the party leadership and. Drude Dahlerup cites the Spanish MP Anna Balletbo as follows: Quotas are a double-edged sword. actually use the quota system for their own purposes. when the League’s resolution was brought to the ANC’s conference in 1991 it was withdrawn before being put to the vote. they will seek out women who they will be able to manage – women who will more easily accept the hegemony of men. On the other hand. However. an agreement in principle was reached in the movement over a 30 per cent quota for women in ANC structures. party list. does not reflect anything about changed attitudes either within the party or in society more broadly.76 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES structures (while the movement was in exile) as well as in United Democratic Front (UDF – the ANC’s then internal legal equivalent) circles as a result of unhappiness on the part of women in the liberation movement about their limited presence in leadership positions. The quota was later pushed through by the ANC’s National Executive Committee just prior to the first democratic elections in 1994. However. since it is men who are opening up these spaces. firstly. This point has been alluded to in some of the quota literature but its implications have not been thoroughly addressed. Consequently. electoral system. One might think at first glance that this story of the way in which the ruling party’s electoral quota for women was won is a good example of the benefits of a powerful centralised party. Debate on the matter was heated and the leadership feared that it would not succeed if taken to the vote. namely that they can be introduced in a way that is. they oblige men to think about including women in decision-making. By getting more of their especially chosen women on board (the ‘queens’ of the political arena.

continue to be estranged from public life and the women who are present are atypical. quotas are a remedy to a disease. They have led countries to not develop a political culture whereby women are integrated into the political system’.QUOTAS 77 to them during an International IDEA conference). South Africa has what many commentators have pointed to as the ideal electoral system and institutional requirements for quotas to be . do we want women to be present in the first place? Because we want people there who are somehow ‘like us’? But are wives. in the quote by Indian MP Sushma Swaraj: ‘Some men did not want women to come forward. mothers and sisters-in-law are not talented and should not be put forward for office. governments can achieve two objectives: get the token ‘controllable’ women. This point is made unintentionally. Dahlerup lists the pros and cons of quotas. people who do what most women do. Switzerland. This brings us right back to the question of why. So what we then have is that qualities. quotas have led to a ceiling. but in some cases they can lead to another disease. the focus for Dahlerup as for most other proponents of quotas. Instead. while claiming they are in favour of promoting women’s participation. As we have seen in Central and Eastern European countries.12 but under cons includes only the sort of argument that would be made in principle against any measure to increase the number of women (‘quotas are undemocratic’.11 Yet aside from citing these views Dahlerup does not herself explore or examine at all. winnable seats for women who are recruited. sisters-in-law and mothers. and so on. educated women also came forward’. daughters-in-law not ‘like us’? South Africa is an example of a country where the presence of women has increased dramatically as a result of a quota system adopted by the ruling party. roles and experiences associated with the feminine. mothering. normatively. Dahlerup does make the point that a quota system cannot remove the obstacles of combining job. namely recruitment and finding vacant.14 The implication here is that wives. at least in the article cited. ‘quotas are against the principle of equal opportunity’) rather than exploring the potentially damaging effect of quotas from the perspective of those who would wish to advance women’s rights and representation. what the overall implications of these empirical observations might be for the strategy of quotas. Inter-Parliamentary Union. ‘In some ways. But talented. That is to say. perhaps. but more importantly the feminine is not present. traits. family and political activity – a significant issue for women and a bigger problem for women than for men13 – but without real comment or consideration of the far-reaching implications this observation has for the efficacy of the strategy of quotas itself. namely take primary responsibility for families.10 As Christine Pintat. mothers. are unlikely to benefit from quotas. so they put forward their wives. is on problems of implementation. puts it.

In June 1999. If it wishes to have 30 women elected then it will place the names of 30 female candidates in the top 60 per cent of names on its list. large district magnitude and good-faith compliance by political parties are the factors that make quotas work’. According to the 1996 report to the Speaker. they control the game’. on the whole. The absence of close links between an MP and a specific constituency to which the MP is responsible means that women cannot claim to have a power base independent of the male-dominated party hierarchy. In this system. The number of women in South Africa’s national legislature compares very favourably with other national legislatures around the world. the women MPs in the opposition and minority parties have recorded more questions as individuals than the women MPs in the majority party’.21 This goes some way to explaining why South Africa’s female parliamentarians have not. a placement requirement. 120 out of South Africa’s 400 MPs were women (30 per cent compared to a world average of 13 per cent of women in lower houses or parliament). women gain power only through access to men: ‘Connections are the name of the game. It is the latter who select which women are promoted within party structures. how many women are elected. ‘[o]f the few who do ask questions. The list system ensures women’s quiescence because allegiance is owed to the political party which placed the woman high on its list rather than to the voter. namely the fact that it operates a pure proportional electoral system (the nationwide party list).78 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES effective: ‘A closed-list system. If it estimates that it will receive 60 per cent of the vote then it knows that only the women candidates placed in the top 60 per cent of its list will be elected.18 In all provincial legislatures and in the national parliament. succeeded in conceiving of themselves or acting as a gender interest .15 The quota.17 South Africa is placed eighth in the world in terms of percentage of women MPs in national legislatures. mainly from the ruling party. being present in parliament. the majority of women present are from the ruling ANC19 thanks to the party’s policy of a one-third quota of women on its electoral lists. However. along with three other features of the South African political system. The closed list system means that it is entirely up to the party to determine whether women are placed high or low on their electoral lists (sometimes referred to in the literature as the party’s ‘placement mandate’16) and thus. based on its estimates of how much electoral support it will garner. who determine the party’s representatives on committees and who allocate speaking time in the house.20 The same report found that women’s participation in vote debates had declined compared with 1994. has resulted in a large number of women. its closed list system in which parties present a rank-ordered list of candidates that cannot be altered by voters. the level of participation on the part of the ANC’s quota of women has not been in proportion to their numbers. along with the ruling ANC’s overwhelming (two-thirds) electoral dominance. the party is able effectively to determine. And men are the game.

23 The government’s policy on HIV is a good example of how the manner in which women enter parliament is important to what they are able to do once there. one of only a handful of women who had proved an outspoken and independent spokesperson for women and who had chaired the portfolio committee on the status of women and children. who had quit his post as the ANC’s lead MP on the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa). left parliament for academe. Her departure followed that of Andrew Feinstein. Feinstein left when he clashed with party bosses over the government’s controversial arms deal. particularly its foot-dragging behaviour on the provision of drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. and this generates debate about the different forms of . with the question of how the quota comes about in the first place and how women enter parliament. Pregs Govender battled to garner support from fellow ANC MPs for her committee’s recommendations on how to mitigate the effects of HIV/Aids on women and children. the party list system means that they are beholden to the party rather than to constituencies (where people are ill and dying in large numbers) and parliament has. In 2002. those women who gain a public voice are typically privileged. THE ‘WHICH’ QUESTION What is more. This is just the tip of an iceberg of an overarching set of structural conditions and dominant attitudes that make agenda-setting by women highly unlikely. then. as a result. who heads the Aids Support Organisation in that country. As Dr Alex Coutinho. As one of the few ANC MPs who did try to take up HIV/Aids in a concerted manner. addressed the issue only half-heartedly. Pregs Govender. Women across party-political lines privately report that women’s issues are more often than not treated within party caucuses ‘with a degree of patronising indulgence’. is the ‘what question’ – the question of what they are able or willing to do once they arrive there.22 Women MPs addressing parliament in South Africa have reported receiving notes from male colleagues commenting on their appearance. for example where MPs are leaders in the fight against Aids. Although there is some evidence to suggest that several female ANC MPs are less than happy with the President’s stance on HIV/Aids.24 This is in contrast to Uganda’s constituency-based system. on the basis of which type of electoral system and democratic process. commented. The ANC’s centrally dominated character has been implicated in the spectre of parliamentary brain-drain for the ruling party and centralisation is reinforced by the party list electoral system. Govender resigned from parliament in 2002.QUOTAS 79 group. Govender came under pressure for her open support of free anti-retroviral drugs at the height of the party’s Aids denialist phase. ‘they know they will not be re-elected if they don’t do anything’.25 Intimately related.

the women who are present are. as might be expected. surely. business and administration. the list system has proved to be something of a double-edged sword when it comes to which women enter parliament and their degree of independence. power and influence once they are there. All are black and the vast majority either are married or have been married and are now widowed or divorced. the medical profession. The party list electoral system places control over which women enter parliament in the hands of the party hierarchy. only three are non-graduates and of these three. as Phillips does. are white and middle class. minister of Public Service and Administration) attended Harvard on a fellowship and one (Thoko Didiza. But what are we to infer from the fact that they are ‘women’? Is it not important also to ask who these women are? The first observation that can be made is that most are in the older age bracket with only one of the 16 being younger than 40 while five are between 40 and 50. then. of the difference in interests between women and men. while seven out of 14 deputy ministers are women. It ensures that ‘all politicians must remain popular with (mostly male) party bosses to survive’. At the level of cabinet. In stark contrast. Although it must be pointed out that the minister of Public Works. drawn from a very narrow strata of society. Stella Sigcau. point out that nine of South Africa’s 27 cabinet members (excluding the President and the Deputy President) are women.26 While the ANC’s electoral quota ensures that many women enter parliament. minister of Agriculture and Land Affairs) obtained several diplomas in the fields of journalism. We can therefore. It is experience. The vast majority are middle-class. all the female deputy ministers cut their teeth in the fraught environment of opposition politics inside the country under apartheid. one (Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. or attuned . the law. which calls into question the degree to which they can be seen as any more representative of.80 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES inequality when women politicians.27 To talk. was a career politician in the Transkei whose independence from South Africa was nominal. academia. NGO management and so on. five are between 50 and 60 and four are older than 60. Of the 16. returning to South Africa only at the time of democratic change. for the most part. retains the now contested notion of two genders. Yet many recent commentators28 have argued that it would be more accurate to talk of many genders and many ways of being gendered. that gives rise to interests and our experiences really do differ in relation to every example conceivable. Thoko Didiza is exceptional in another respect in that she is the only one of the nine female cabinet ministers not to have spent a large part of her early career and/or academic training outside the country in exile either in a neighbouring country or further afield. having enjoyed careers in teaching. at one level. business.

the needs. Many find the lack of contact with their children unacceptable even if the children are looked after by their father. as has been pointed out. in making their presence count. disoriented and traumatised in their new role as parliamentarians. to the fact that male politicians are reportedly less offensive in their dealings with women MPs which seems partly attributable simply to being more accustomed to their presence. A 1996 report concluded that women’s participation in parliament was on the decline. This and subsequent reports have cited women’s lack of professional skills and administrative back-up as key to their inability to make enough of an impression in parliament. developing jealous suspicions with which women in turn find it hard to deal. from the introduction of more family` friendly working hours and a creche. Many of these women report feeling fearful.QUOTAS 81 to. according to the ANC’s chief whip. more of a problem for women for whom it is harder to encourage husbands with jobs and careers to move. overwhelmed and pained by their experience of entering parliament. However. women MPs themselves consistently point to the domestic as the key to understanding the difficulty that they have: Women MPs commonly identify the rigours of combining parliamentary work with family responsibilities as a major problem. the point of the quota is not to change parliament but to change what parliament does and in particular what the women present in parliament do. precisely because of their backgrounds.31 What this points to again is the key problem with quotas – they are a strategy to change the way things look without changing the way things are. Husbands often cannot cope with their wives’ unspecified working hours. For proponents of the quota. In this regard the evidence is less reassuring.30 But for women there were the added typical disadvantages of trying to combine family responsibilities with parliamentary careers along with the fact that women experienced parliament as a highly chauvinistic environment. Families are often divided between Cape Town and the home residence. this does not in itself surely constitute an argument for the quota. rank-and-file female MPs who are drawn from a wider crosssection of society face great difficulties. concerns and interests of the majority of ordinary women. Other husbands are unable to cope with their wives’ elevated public status. Moreover. To some extent.29 Men and women alike whose past life experience did not prepare them for parliament were. simply reciting the race and gender characteristics of a political representative does not tell us what that person’s policy stances will be. As Gisela Geisler32 writes in a recent . However. On the other hand. experience does seem to suggest that in the years subsequent to 1994 the mere presence of women in parliament has led to some changes to its culture and structure.

the fact that she was a woman was of little importance: ‘no. what quotas do is put a certain kind of woman into power. each with a larger majority than the last.82 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES article. for Phillips. speaking on behalf of black South Africans. the interests and concerns of black people who. that is. My constituents mainly felt I should play this role’. won nine elections in her well-heeled all-white constituency. Suzman did not see herself particularly as a ‘representative’ of women. despite having made her maiden speech on the subject of the absence of women’s rights. could not be present in parliament. a white woman who was the only female member of the opposition in South Africa’s Parliament between 1953 and 1974. Gender. the persistence of an unequal division of labour means that most women cannot avail themselves of the opportunities provided by quotas even if they can achieve the education and so on that is necessary for them to do so. the latter being seen by most as a simple matter of women’s interests versus men’s interests while one seldom hears talk of ‘black’ interests and ‘white’ interests.33 On this basis. we can note that. Many commentators on identity politics have been willing to recognise the difficulty of using ‘race’ as a marker for representation but have been far more hesitant to do so when it comes to gender. for instance. I think that they thought that I was a competent and conscientious MP which I really was . a white middle class Jewish woman. in the absence of doing something about the inequalities in the social division of labour. was the idea that they would somehow ‘make up’ for the imbalances created by the social division of labour. in her commentary on race. Taking this point further. Suzman. quotas or no quotas. as we saw earlier. . For example. took it upon herself to ‘represent’ partially her constituency (since the electoral system was constituency-based at that time) but also and. for Suzman more importantly. it was Suzman’s impression that from the point of view of most of her constituents. Moreover. as it happens. While one of the key arguments for quotas. This invalidates the background theoretical assumptions of quotas in the first place – we need women there because women have something in common with one another and are different to men. Helen Suzman. because of apartheid legislation. The point is that the women who land up there on the basis of quotas have little in common with most other women because. while Anne Phillips recognises the difficulty of a simplistic dualism and that this means race is not easily amenable to a politics of quotas – ‘Distinguishing only between whites and the rest produces a crude and misleading distinction’35 – she recognises no such complexity in relation to gender.34 it is difficult to see how they achieve this. Instead. . is ‘a much simpler . I was usually working for non-constituents but that was why I was elected. She did take some interest in issues that might be described as ‘women’s concerns’ but her interests were wide ranging and her particular focus was on racial discrimination.

‘the research has yet to prove conclusively that the presence of women does make in itself a significant difference’. given the institutional and social environment. often citing these arguments interchangeably or as if they are self-evident.QUOTAS 83 category’. the consequentialist justification for the quota suggests that the presence of women will change the content of politics.37 THE ‘WHAT’ QUESTION The assumption underlying all arguments for quotas. say. must somehow be like us either in physical identity.36 It is difficult to understand why precisely the point which Phillips makes in relation to racial or ethnic identity is not deemed to hold true also for the reduction of gender identity to a simple binary: Race or ethnicity can then become a symbolic shorthand which obscures other areas of difference and erases other aspects of political choice. as Judith Squires points out. In the absence of a clearly defined and shared group interest which any member would automatically promote. or experience. Iris Marion Young sums up the key point: to say that a representative is in some sense like a constituent tells us nothing about what that representative will do in politics.42 Hannah Pitkin argues that we need to look not only at who our representatives are but also at what they do.38 is that it matters somehow that there are only a few women or fewer women than men present in. Rather than making assumptions abut how people will behave purely on the basis of .41 Even if we are able to find support for the idea that female legislators have different policy preferences than their male counterparts. In her classic study of representation. this says little about whether or not they are. Simply put. a national parliament. But the consequentialist arguments do of course rely on assumptions about what women will do once they enter politics. in order properly to represent us. changing the character of the representatives may then change nothing else. Proponents of quotas offer a variety of reasons for why it should matter. Two of them.40 Alexandra Dobrowolsky points to the Canadian case to illustrate that women’s presence in parliament may increase but that this can occur in a government that ignores or is hostile to women’s issues such as with the Mulroney government of the 1980s and early 1990s. to translate these preferences into action. the symbolic argument and the argument from justice. Yet. as Judith Squires points out in her study of British politics. do not rely on any assumptions about what women actually do once they enter politics.39 Most normative theorists of democracy as well as empirical political scientists have summarily dismissed the idea of descriptive representation – the notion that our representatives.

speaking and behaving are regarded as less legitimate than others.43 It is accepted as long as they do not express themselves in gendered terms or act to protect gender-based interests. However. to much laughter in party caucuses. what influence it has. Proponents of quotas for women have high hopes that women. in a context where female politicians with a feminist orientation were ‘sometimes referred to by men. we need an account of what good representation substantively is. the changed racial or ethnic composition of legislatures has not always led to legislation that benefits the electoral majority. will be vociferous advocates for the interests and concerns of other women who have hitherto been voiceless. there is simply no evidence to support the idea that just decision-making is the inevitable or even likely outcome of changing the composition of the legislature. Much of the evidence in fact points in the opposite direction. Women in South Africa’s first democratic parliament have remarked on the way in which many were afraid to be identified with gender activism. We need. a process in which some interests will sometimes predominate but not always. Yet a wide body of research shows that women’s participation in political organisations and processes has a conditional character. how it is understood and interpreted. even if the assembly resembles a miniature portrait of the nation. Very often. then. then good representation is not present. ways of expressing and views themselves are regarded as irrelevant to the ‘real’ business of politics. voices. simply having members of marginalised groups present when unjust decisions are taken serves to legitimise these decisions because legitimacy is thought to rest not on what is decided. As most would acknowledge. as “that lot . but on who was present when it was decided. Good representation implies a reconciling of interests. The alternative would be to see the voicing of the marginalised view as the responsibility of only the ‘representative(s)’ of the marginalised. but what really matters is not the act of speaking itself but how it is received. what sorts of words. In Africa. once they are present in legislatures. a process in which there will be a conscious seeking out of the marginalised as a duty of all representatives. as is widely lamented. If certain ways of being. The good representative consciously tries to take decisions in a way that is cognisant of the many perspectives and roles in which s/he is immersed.84 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES who they are. as part of what the very meaning of representation is thought to be. our representatives are not mere functionaries carrying out exact mandates. A member of a marginalised group (or even two or three members) might speak in a debate. Representatives are involved in active decision-making and this is precisely the reason why those concerned with presence care about who these representatives are – as a kind of limited guarantee against injustice. an account of good representation and it is this that is largely absent from a pure politics of presence.

public education and information. the Employment Equity Bill requires employers to report regularly to government concerning race. Thenjiwe Mtintso. sex. that we were denied a better chance to do more’. created the Women’s Budget initiative. the Labour Relations Act of 1995 protects workers against unfair discrimination on the basis of sex. are sufficiently represented at all levels. the Maintenance Act requires mothers and fathers to pay fairly towards the raising of their children. including women. The Bill of Rights in the new Constitution outlaws discrimination on several grounds. its first chairperson. sexual orientation and marital status. then. pregnancy. Yet closer investigation reveals a less encouraging picture. making recommendations about laws. . Many will argue that South African women have made great strides since 1994.QUOTAS 85 who went to Beijing” ’. women can have access to power as long as they do not indicate a preference for using it to promote women’s interests in an adversarial manner. Far from being vociferous in their protection of women’s interests.45 The overall impression of the majority of South Africa’s female MPs’ participation in parliament is an unwillingness to be overtly identified with the promotion of women’s issues thanks to the perception that this would result in exclusion from the mainstream of politics where power and influence is located. gender and disability equity in their organisations.44 Women were also reportedly wary of ‘going on about’ women’s issues lest party leadership should become ‘irritated’. the Public Service Act of 1994 removes discriminatory practices such as differential pension and housing benefits for married and unmarried women and men. the Office on the Status of Women (established early in 1997) and. including gender. together with NGOs. In the Commission on Gender Equality’s first annual report. race or other grounds. including the Commission on Gender Equality (CGE –an independent statutory body established in April 1997 as one of six state institutions tasked with supporting democracy).46 Although charged with monitoring and evaluating government and the private sector. resolving disputes and investigating inequality and commissioning research. Paradoxically. Women back off’. ‘survival instincts triumph. the women’s caucus. A national machinery for gender equality has been created. in parliament. policies and programmes. the 1996 White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service legislates for transformation units to be included in all national and provincial departments to ensure that members of disadvantaged groups. New laws passed since 1994 include the Choice on Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1996 which allows women to have abortions. which looks at the impact of the national budget on women and on poor women in particular. the Parliamentary Women’s Group and the Women’s Empowerment Unit the Committee on Improving the Quality of Life and Status of Woman was established in August 1996 and. wrote that the report was presented ‘with a sense of sadness.

stressing export-led growth.5 per cent went to programmes. The presence of women in parliament has brought about some changes – working hours have been altered to take into account the domestic responsi` bilities of parliamentarians. Despite their numbers in parliament. However. supporting government bodies to integrate a gender perspective in all policies and programmes. However. promoting affirmative action in government. reducing the budget deficit.47 The Office on the Status of Women (OSW) is charged with developing a national gender policy. for example. Replacing the earlier Keynesian direction of the ANC’s policy rhetoric. the hope is that gender units within government departments will ensure that each department incorporates a gendered perspective into its policies and programmes. departments have taken gender into account in their internal practices but have not translated this into a gendered perspective in policy-making and implementation. At the national level its funds are limited and at the provincial level many provinces have not allocated any budget at all for the OSWs. However. relying instead on donor funding. It is not automatically involved in the drafting of national policy. Financial statements from the 2001/02 financial year show that 57 per cent of the commission’s budget was spent on remuneration while only 27. It operates on a tiny budget (according to Commissioner Sheila Meintjes. Its staff consists of one director and a secretary. points out that . commissioners are appointed by the President. commenting on the Canadian case. keeping a tight rein on inflation and government spending and attracting foreign investment.86 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES the commission consists of only 11 commissioners. GEAR took a sharp turn in the direction of neo-liberalism. there are more bathroom facilities for women (these had to be specially built with the sudden influx of women!) and the language used in debate and legislation must now be non-sexist. it is under-funded by R5 million a year) and despite its supposed independence from government. a creche has been introduced. Employment and Redistribution (GEAR). the OSW has limited real power. of whom half are part-time. organising and coordinating gender training and projects for government departments. women have not been able to make any difference to the macroeconomic policy direction initiated by the ANC government introduced in 1996 and entitled Growth. like the CGE. many women still report finding the culture of parliament alienating and find the pressure of family responsibilities debilitating to their parliamentary work. This has had far-reaching implications for the possibilities of programmes to redress gender inequality – an experience that is mirrored in many other contexts. Dobrowolsky. in practice. Instead. South Africa does not have a separate ministry for women’s affairs as many countries do.

it is women who must fill the gaps. As a result. at a time in Canadian history when there are more women than ever in prominent political positions. despite a socioeconomic context in which the gap between the rich and the poor is widening . is that the country’s population will start contracting in 2016. based on annual surveys of women attending antenatal clinics. .48 Controls on government expenditure mean less is available to spend on social services. Trials in Thailand suggest that it can cut mother-to-child-transmission of HIV by half. In this. rose to 4.7 million in 2000 from 4. trade liberalisation has meant job losses for women in industries such as textiles and clothing. according to the Development Bank. two successive female ministers of Health have been at the forefront of defending what many regard as a highly lamentable policy which will be directly responsible for the loss of many lives that might otherwise have been saved. Government estimates for the number of HIVpositive people in South Africa. and thus huge shortfalls in the aggregation and articulation of various women’s interests and identities remain. Nevirapine is administered to HIV-positive expectant mothers. for example to children and the elderly. . The government’s stalled Nevirapine programme is a particularly important example of the lack of real power that women have in South Africa. The implication of such figures. where government pulls back on services.000 expected to die as a consequence of Aids in 2001. Yet despite departmental support for its use. Life expectancy at birth. making the point very starkly that there is no necessary link between the gender of a government minister and the policy preferences of that person. This has meant that programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. with nearly 200. Similarly. the MRC forecasted. when the number of Aids-related deaths will exceed births. with women and children among the particularly vulnerable. the roll-out of the .QUOTAS 87 the neo-liberal state operates as if equality exists. would drop from 54 years in 2001 to 41 in 2010. to distribute anti-retrovirals to rape victims and other sufferers.2 million in 1999. cuts in public service expenditure have primarily affected women who are clustered in the teaching and nursing professions. women have not been instrumental in shifting government policy on HIV despite the stark and obvious effects of the disease on the country’s female population. and other programmes aimed at substantially tackling the disease have been stalled. The Medical Research Council reported in October 2001 that one in four deaths was attributable to Aids. growing unemployment and the absence of a job creation strategy are implicated in rising levels of crime.49 President Thabo Mbeki has become associated with an apparent embracing of dissident doctrine on Aids aetiology. inequalities are growing rather than subsiding.

52 Where female ministers have had the opportunity to fight for policies that might be regarded (by those who wish to retain the notion of women’s interests) as being particularly in the interests of women. the chairperson of the Improvement of the Quality of Life and Status of Women Committee. why is it regarded as good for women that South Africa has nine women out . Thoko Didiza. when asked to cite some of its achievements. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi. had to resort to mentioning an amendment to the Boxing Act which will mean that women can participate in the sport. Manto Tshabalala Msimang has the support of her entire department for the Nevirapine programme but has been reluctant to embark on it without cabinet approval. One might ask how it is that a minister of Foreign Affairs or Intelligence (South Africa has women in both positions) is meant to infuse a gendered or indeed ‘women’s’ perspective into their approach to their portfolio but this then only begs the question: why a quota for women in the first place.50 It is difficult to see what any of the female ministers have done to infuse a gender perspective or a particular focus on women into the way in which they deal with their portfolios. This context helps to explain why. Reports suggest that the minister of Health. An internal department report indicates that some 250.4 million) being allocated to women contractors. ‘Does she have the thigh muscles to ride the political storm?’ asked one newspaper in relation to the limitation of the power of traditional leaders on land administration boards. it would appear. preferring instead to succumb to the dominant party line emerging in particular from the Office of the President.88 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES programme in the country’s nine provinces has been delayed thanks. Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele who was in the position for seven years until 2002 and who made serious attempts to advance the role of women in construction with the launch of the Women for Housing Association in 2002. in her attempts to restructure the civil service is that of HIV/ Aids. many skilled. Undoubtedly one of the largest challenges faced by minister of Public Service and Administration. Lulu Xingwana.000 public servants. Minister of Foreign Affairs Zuma is frequently described as ‘frumpy’ or badly dressed and as a ‘battle axe’. many face the battle of trying to erase their gender identity (which is constantly harped on by the media) so that they might be taken seriously in their portfolios. The minister of Health’s role in the failure to provide anti-retrovirals to HIV-positive expectant mothers is the most striking case. but there have been others as well. which saw a substantial section of the housing budget (R16. Indeed.51 Minister of Agriculture. may die in the next decade. they have not done so. has been described as lacking inner steel. Yet Fraser-Moleketi’s department refused to publish the report. The one exception is the former minister of Housing. to a fear of crossing the President. who apparently regards the drug as a dangerous toxin.

You need to be able to show at the most simple level that women can be leaders’. most often. whether or not the majority of ordinary South African women are in support of abortion has not been canvassed properly and. for example. moving on to what she regards as more important arguments that have to do with the representation of interests. with male partners seeing abortion as a simple contraceptive device which alleviates their responsibility for their actions. Were MPs being asked to protect rights of women here and were female MPs charged with a particular responsibility in this regard? Or were they simply voting for party policy? Indeed. for example. commonly heralded as one of the most important achievements of women and for women in the new democratic era. a nun. Most importantly.53 But this symbolic role is not noteworthy by most advocates of quotas. perhaps.54 In a particularly stark example. least of all in the form in which the policy is currently being carried out in South Africa where serial abortions are common but counselling prior to and post-abortion is limited or. Sister Ncube. Deputy Speaker of Parliament. argued that Ferguson was remiss in voting according to her own view because she had been voted into parliament on the assumption that she would defend the rights of women to choice over abortion. it is at least plausible that some would argue that abortion is not in women’s interests. who abstained. Fellow MP Pregs Govender. Philips. Other female MPs whose culture. to be fit to govern. entirely absent. to be capable in public. . Jennifer Ferguson. faced the wrath of the party and of its women’s rights activists for doing so. along with very high levels of religiosity among South African women. it is impossible to make sound generalisations about what women think based on their gender alone. This was the argument used by former ANC Deputy Secretary General Thenjiwe Mtintso: ‘The mere politics of women’s presence is important. The party did not allow a vote of conscience on the matter and one ANC MP. This is demonstrated most strikingly by the events in parliament surrounding the 1996 Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Bill. voted for the bill against the dictates of her church and presumably of her own conscience. given the passionate arguments on both sides of the abortion debate. Many health professionals argue that the legislation in its current form has done little more than place yet another painful burden on women’s shoulders. that in a party list system MPs have no choice but to take the party line. dismisses it out of hand. Yet the evidence suggests that many ANC women in parliament did not support the bill. having been voted into parliament not as individuals but as members of their party. tradition or religion left them with personal misgivings about the bill were told by Baleka Kgositsile. one ANC MP.QUOTAS 89 27 cabinet ministers? The only possible answer can be in the form of the symbolic importance of having women in these positions – the fact that just having them there makes a point about women’s ability to take on leadership roles.

rather than the views of individual women MPs or the presence in parliament of a relatively large number of women. which constituency are female MPs supposed to represent. in short. which things are in which women’s interests. thirdly. that women politicians. families. can all of a sudden support unexpected positions. that women MPs were more likely to introduce bills in the areas of women’s rights and children and families. that quotas beget more quotas. they are not the representatives of women (who. In this case. that having more women present has social policy consequences. some commentators have presented arguments which they see as suggesting evidence for the consequentialist position – that is. their party constituency or women and if the latter in any sense at all. quotas seem to have led to the adoption of more quotas at other governmental levels (provincial and municipal).56 The first point. then. The third is at best mixed evidence by the authors’ own admission: ‘The data show that 33 per cent of the women legislators presented a third or more of their bills in the Women’s Rights area and 11 per cent in the . the positive consequences they list are. Yet closer examination reveals that the evidence is less than convincing. that in any case. is disingenuous. In Htun and Jones’ study of quotas for women in Argentina. health and housing.90 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES This example is instructive in revealing the heart of the difficulty with quotas for women – what does a policy of quotas say about representation. and how do we reconcile the differences that inevitably exist? We simply cannot. the environment. what about the problem of absence of mechanisms of accountability to this constituency? How. for example.55 In other contexts. and. do not form a homogenous whole) and do not rely on women’s organisations (which. To herald the country’s new abortion legislation as a triumph for women and an outcome of the quota policy as many quota proponents do. secondly. firstly. can only be seen as a positive consequence if the argument for quotas can be made in the first instance. do not have similar positions). which women want which things. moreover. even when they are feminists. that was decisive in carrying the policy into legislation. education. if not mischievous. that women tend to be over-represented on committees that related to women’s rights or issues of traditional interest to women such as children. The second can be read as implying that women are relegated to these ‘traditional’ areas and tells us little about what they are actually able to achieve in these committees and to what extent their presence there makes a difference. do we know what women want. moreover. As Peemans-Poullet points out: History shows us that women’s interests are divided at least in the short term. In other words it simply begs the question rather than answering it. that feminist organisations are also divided. the ANC’s policy was in favour of abortion on demand and it was this.

QUOTAS 91 Children and Families area. 58 per cent of the women legislators presented no bills in Women’s Rights and 61 presented no bills in Children and Families’. As Htun and Jones conclude. Htun and Jones. that are what it takes to produce legislative action benefiting all women. ‘the vast majority of women who enter politics in Latin America do not campaign on women’s issues (such as domestic violence. in spite of the fact that they make up 28 per cent of the Congress.59 Similarly. equal opportunities or reproductive health). and enter the fray in as degendered a form as possible. CONCLUSION Quotas have. in many parts of the world (notably Scandinavia) come about as a result of sustained pressure on the part of women’s groups within parties as . the Argentine case seems to support evidence from South Africa which suggests that a few women take a particular interest in issues that might be termed ‘women’s concerns’ but that the majority do not. as in most other quota literature. a Mexican study showed that gender-related policy changes came about only when they coincided with party interests. have not achieved many more policy changes than women legislators in other countries where the numbers are smaller’.57 Yet they conclude that quotas. for example. Yet in Htun and Jones. can’t talk about gender issues’. not quotas.60 This makes it very difficult to determine the actual impact of the presence of women as opposed to the enactment of policies that would have been put in place anyway.61 The real question to ask is whether we can attribute the passing of different (‘women-friendly’) legislation to the presence of a larger number of women. In this regard the evidence is very mixed. for example. have helped to place gender-related issues on the legislative agenda. the argument from consequences must fail.62 Moreover. What seems to be the case is that really powerful women are precisely those women who leave behind them their identity as women and any thoughts of representing womanly concerns. Htun and Jones find. cite one Argentine congresswoman remarking: ‘Women. that ‘Argentine women. nor do they make such issues the central focus of their legislative careers’. by getting more women into Congress. in order to be important politically. leaving only the symbolic argument for quotas intact. it seems to be broad-based alliances of women. that women risk being ghettoised in parliamentary committees associated with traditional women’s concerns and that their real power to influence the overall agenda of social policy is as difficult to measure as it is to discern. On the other hand. the symbolic argument receives scant attention and is regarded as secondary to the key (consequentialist) arguments for quotas. on this evidence. Rather.63 If this is the case.58 It is difficult to see how their conclusion can be sustained by the evidence presented. child care.

a critical mass of women. rather than a token few ‘who will be able to influence political norms and culture’ and give women the possibility of influencing ‘the decision-making process as individuals or with specific women’s or feminist points of view’. but not so good for those who wish to make their voices heard from outside and who do not find themselves ‘mirrored’ in any but the most insignificant way by the women they see in parliament. and they give power and control over that woman to the recruiter. in her studies of women MPs in Scandinavia.66 While Dahlerup imputed the shift in perceptions of women politicians to the growth in the numbers of women in Scandinavian political life. politically highly well-connected women.64 Where difficulties are acknowledged. A dimension of South African women MPs’ vulnerability . In some cases this has been marked by a self-serving arrogance in which women lay claim to the mantle of legitimacy conferred by the mere fact of womanhood without having to take particularly seriously the need to act in ways that are empathetic or sensitive to the needs of the majority of women. despite high numbers. let alone be ‘accountable’ to the latter. The improved presence of women in South Africa’s national legislature due to the ANC’s quota has done little more than advance the careers of a select group of already well-educated. Proponents of quotas for women conclude that successful quota systems lead to active recruitment of women by political parties. Networks of power. is good for those women who are actually present. found that women politicians worked to recruit other women. for example. Those with first-hand experience of parliament report that women MPs rarely personally mentor other women in parliament. Opponents of quotas are envisaged as mobilising ‘arguments to maintain the status quo’. This problem appears to be a secondary effect of the overall lack of value attached to ‘women’s issues’ and the political culture of the country. these are usually seen as relating chiefly to problems of implementation. they seem to have little impact on their overall arguments. and therefore contribute to a situation in which those who are present as a result of quotas are not willing or able to do what the proponents of quotas hope they will do. this has so far not been borne out by the South African experience where. Drude Dahlerup. While some proponents of quotas appear to be aware of these points and occasionally allude to them. quotas do several things: they allow for the most part for only a certain type of woman to enter the political process. role models and mentors who are prepared to guide newcomers are among the most important resources that tend to be differentially available to men and women.92 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES well as the women’s movement in general. participation specifically in defence of women’s interests is muted or absent.65 But by placing the burden of responsibility on those who control the recruitment process. then. The focus on presence.

I hope to have shown that we do need to be attentive not only to presence but also to the (potential non-) consequences of presence. Fourthly. . research . Where presence is embedded in highly oppressive structures including cultural norms where the dominant view offers little scope for women to have real influence. the black women get going. In their 1998 needs assessment of women MPs and MPLs. then it may serve to legitimise injustice more than to undermine it. divisive or irrelevant. the pattern is overwhelmingly one of the women who gain access to power being related by marriage or birth to powerful men. While black women offer support in private for an agenda which aggressively pursues women’s interests. Secondly. which has become the dominant party’s line on the form which opposition to its policies should properly take. There seems to be no clear linear movement in the direction of progress. Indian and coloured women are left exposed. ‘when the going gets tough. Bardill and Marks found that party loyalty could prevent women from speaking up when they would be seen as disagreeing with male members of their party. in South Africa. as elsewhere in Africa. An aspect of this political culture in which the expression of women’s issues is regarded as irrelevant or divisive or of secondary importance to ‘national priorities’ is what may be termed the ‘constructive criticism’ injunction. This is open to empirical investigation but it seems doubtful given that in many countries the pattern is one of declining rather than increasing presence. Thirdly. its impact is limited. but of artificial manipulation of the political process. let alone tertiary. representation in Africa is perhaps the best empirical argument there is against essentialism in what we regard as fulfilling the requirements of presence. In Africa. rejecting the very issues they privately supported . Sometimes. education. gender activism is seen as a high-risk activity. Many women have bought into the notion of ‘constructive criticism’ and ‘loyalty’. where women are present in political elites they tend to be drawn from a tiny elite (educated) sub-section of the population of a continent where girl children continue to have very little access to secondary. Moreover. The obvious rejoinder may be that it is precisely presence that is required to reverse these oppressive structures in the long term. as if it is they alone who are pursuing the agenda’.68 The South African example is potentially instructive in a number of ways.QUOTAS 93 in the post-1994 period (which is no doubt less acute in the Scandinavian case) is the fact that many are major breadwinners for their families and in a party political context where defence of ‘women’s interests’ is regarded as politically illegitimate. According to one first-hand account. In the first instance. there remain some things that black women just ‘cannot do. say or support’. it shows that where improved presence is the result not of broader societal shifts.67 This appears to be an approach which particularly characterises the participation of black women. . The white. They remain silent.

Quotas and the party list system are a way of putting women in parliament without having to change the social attitudes and structures which make it quite impossible for the vast majority of women to consider themselves eligible or be considered eligible for such a role. A. Where increased presence is achieved in isolation from other substantive changes.92. ‘Push for Zebra Principle in Parliament’. 1998). Women and Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press.). Women in Parliament Beyond Numbers (Stockholm: IDEA. Decauquier.62. ‘Using Quotas to Increase Women’s Political Representation’. It does not have to rely on these women being electable because in a party list system people vote for the party label and not for the individuals who make up the list. The Politics of Presence (Oxford: Clarendon Press. Jones. M. In a party list system combined with a quota. in N. 3. 4. What fans of the system fail to recognise is its severe limitations. institutional and cultural norms that really is required. 2002).). 1995). 2000 – www. p. Squires. cited in B. The reason why they do is because they do not rely on shifting the prejudices or social conditions that make it difficult for women to be elected in the first place. it can give rise to complacency. Craske and M. ‘Quotas for Women: Fair Representation?’ in J. D.70 My point is that it is unlikely to because the political focus on presence has become an easy campaign to run and to win precisely because it can be accommodated within the present structure of politics without challenging anything very much at all and its results are negligible so no one minds too much giving in to the demand. Phillips. for example. ‘Engendering the Right to Participate in Decision-Making’.35.94 THE JOURNAL OF LEGISLATIVE STUDIES has shown that women MPs have often failed to place women’s issues (using the broadest possible definition of what these might be) on national agendas. from the point of view of autonomy from party discipline and the risktaking potential of individual women MPs. Norris (eds. Molyneux (eds. Marques-Pereira. Mail and Guardian. ‘Political Representation in Belgium’ (Aalborg University. 2000). J. place the burden of responsibility for change on women and shift the emphasis away from the radical challenge to existing social. They are a way of putting women in parliament but retaining tight control over the form and content of their participation. Lovenduski and P. As Phillips notes.69 Where political presence does appear to have an impact. Gender and the Politics of Rights and Democracy in Latin America (Basingstoke: Palgrave. in A.dk/gep/). Karam (ed. p. Htun and B. See. . the result of the introduction of quotas for women by all sorts of different political parties across the globe has not had striking results outside the Nordic countries. 1994 . p.humsamf.76. Dahlerup. p.26. The same can be said of the approval that quota advocates have shown for party list proportional representation and other systems that appear to make it easier for more women to be elected. 2003. p.). NOTES 1. 2. 8 Aug. this is more an indication of what has already happened outside parliament than a result of presence itself.auc. all a party has to do is to find sufficient women willing to stand and fill its quota.

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