Over 50% of elected lawmakers are women in Bolivia

Bolivia ranks third in the world, after Rwanda and Cuba, in terms of women's representation in Parliament.

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La Paz: Recent Elections in Bolivia have not only brought back the socialist parties to power but also more women lawmakers in both the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate.

Evo Morales’ party Movement for Socialism (MAS) claimed victory in a Bolivian presidential election. This is a huge win for Bolivian democratic forces and its indigenous population, who faced heavy suppression after the right-wing interim Government staged a US-backed coup last year.

According to Telesur, The MAS achieved a majority in the Senate with 21 seats, of which 10 are occupied by women.

The Citizens’ Community won 11 seats, seven of them for women, while “We Believe” won four, two of them for women.

As for the Chamber of Representatives, 48.33 percent of the plurinominals are men, while 51.6 percent of the seats will be held by women. Meanwhile, Women’s hegemony returns in the uninominals with 57.14 percent of the seats.

The indigenous representation will be led by women with 57.14 percent. Also, 55.56 of the supra-state representatives are women.

A significant number of elected women parliamentarians are new faces, which shows the confidence of the electorate in their female representatives.

How did this happen?

Women representation in Bolivian politics is not a new phenomenon. 2014 elections were historic as it led to 51% of women representation in the Legislative Assembly.

The approval of the Political Constitution of Bolivia (2009), concurrent laws along with an extensive and sustained mobilization of different women’s movements, gave way to achieve the recognition and application of the principles of parity and alternation to strengthen more equitable participation between women and men. The election of 82 women out of 166 assembly members is the highest in Bolivian history. After 32 years of democracy, in 1982 the country went from having 2 percent of representatives in the legislature, to reach parity in the political sphere of the national legislature.

Women Representation in Politics

According to the Map of Women in Politics 2020 of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and United Nations Women, Bolivia ranks third in the world, after Rwanda and Cuba, in terms of women’s representation in Parliament.

Rwanda boasts by far the best record for female representation in parliament, with nearly two-thirds of its seats currently held by women.

There are only two other countries with more women in parliament than men – Cuba (53.2%) and Bolivia (53.1%). Latin American and Caribbean nations also take a further four spots in the top 10 – Mexico (48.2%), Grenada (46.7%), Nicaragua (45.7%) and Costa Rica (45.6%).

The rest of the top 10 is rounded out by two more African nations – Namibia (46.2%) and South Africa (42.7%) – and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Sweden (46.1%), the world’s first self-proclaimed “feminist” government.

The Nordic group of countries leads the way in female representation with 42.3% of seats, followed by the Americas (30.3%), the rest of Europe (26.5%), and sub-Saharan Africa (23.8%). Asia (19.7%) and the Arab states (18.7%) lag well below the global average, but it is the Pacific nations (15.5%) which have the worst record.

Female Representation matter

Quotas are a common factor in many of the electoral systems with more women as legislators and MPs. The first country in the world to introduce a gender quota by law was Argentina in 1991. Since then the legal requirement for parties to put forward a certain proportion of female candidates has become common across Latin America, and beyond. Many other countries have adopted different approaches with the same aim, either reserving seats for women (as in China, Pakistan and many Arab nations), or by political parties voluntarily adopting their own quotas (as in much of Europe).

Quotas have certainly had a dramatic impact on Rwandan politics. In the 1990s on average 18% of parliamentary seats were held by women. The constitution of 2003 mandated 30% of elected posts be held by women. By 2008 women made up more than half of Rwanda’s parliament, and that proportion rose to nearly two-thirds in the 2013 election.

Over the last 20 years, huge steps have been made towards greater female representation. In 1997 women only held more than 30% of seats in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. Now there are 49 countries where that barrier has been broken. But since 2015 progress has stalled – and in some cases gone into reverse.

Representation of individuals from diverse sectors like farmers, women, community leaders, academics ensures the development of a more equitable society. Women’s representation matters help in making rules to prevent women’s oppression and gender-based violence.

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