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women s right to participate in politics in the context of cedaw a regional perspective

Women’s right to participate in politics in the context of CEDAW – a regional perspective

supported by:

global picture of women in politics
Global picture of women in Politics
  • 1995 - Beijing Platform for Action called on States to increase women’s participation in decision making and leadership and ensure women’s full participation in political life.
  • At that time, women held 11.3 per cent of parliamentary seats.
  • By 2009, women held 18.8 %-a gain of 75%.
good news
Good News
  • By 2010, 44 chambers reached the 30% target (16.7 % of the total) vs. only 7 chambers in 1995.
  • The number of chambers with a membership of 10 %or less women has halved from 141 in 1995 to 71 in 2009 (27%).
  • In January 2010, there were more women Presiding Officers than ever before. Women held 35 (13.0%) of the 269 top posts in parliaments around the world vs. 24 in 1995.
challenges remain
Challenges Remain
  • In several parliaments there are only a handful of women, and the number of parliamentary chambers where no women hold seats has not dropped dramatically (from 13 in 1995 to 10 in 2009).
  • Women’s advancement into leadership positions has been slow. Although there has been an increase from 24 in 2005 - still only 35 women Presiding Officers are at the helm of parliaments.
east and southeast asian women in national level parliaments
East and Southeast Asian women in national level parliaments

In East and Southeast Asia women remain underrepresented in political and decision-making positions.

No country in the region has met the 30% “critical mass” of women in parliament

4 countries in the region have yet to reach 20%

importance of sub national local politics
Importance of sub-national &local politics
  • Local governments (including rural councils; urban councils; district or other intermediary council; and provincial or regional councils) have a more direct impact than national parliaments on most peoples lives, especially when they are responsible for delivering key services.
  • Women have more opportunity to compete for elected positions at subnational levels of government, as well as a greater probability of winning, based on higher numbers of these positions relative to those at a national level
national vs sub national women s political representation in esea
National vs. sub-national Women’s Political Representation in ESEA

National vs. sub-national Women’s Political Representation in ESEA

institutional constraints on women s political participation
Institutional Constraints on women’s political participation
  • Electoral Systems: Women have greater advantage under proportional representation systems than under simple majority systems.
  • Direct v. Indirect Elections: indirect election systemsoften perpetuate patterns of gender-biased political participation.
  • Political parties: It is difficult for women to be nominated as candidates in political parties that are traditionally dominated by men.
societal constraints on women s political participation
Societal Constraints on women’s political participation
  • Customary notions about women’s role in society (household/husbands/children) = less time & skills for involvement in public life.
  • Negative attitudes towards female political candidates = limited capacity to raise sufficient resources/support.
  • Gender stereotypes in the media = deteriorating status of women and their limited participation in politics.
other factors impeding women s political participation
Other factors impeding women’s political participation
  • Limited access to information on party platforms, candidates, voting procedures
  • Illiteracy, lack of understanding of political systems
  • Lack of women registered to vote
  • Male influence and control over women’s votes
  • Restrictions on women’s freedom of movement
  • Lack of confidence in women candidates
  • Some women consider politics distasteful or violent.

CEDAW defines what constitutes discrimination against women and provides a framework for national action to end such discrimination.

  • Article 1: Discrimination against women is "...any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which impairs or nullifies the recognition, enjoyment or exercise … of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field.”

Articles 2-5 require parties to: enact laws and pursue policies designed to eliminate discrimination against women (Article 2). ensure the full development and advancement of of women (Article 3) Adopt temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality between men and women (Article 4) eliminate stereotypes, prejudices and practices that are harmful to women (Article 5)

cedaw art 7 eliminate discrimination against women in political
CEDAW – Art. 7Eliminate discrimination against women in political

States Parties shall ensure women have, on equal terms with men, the right:

(a) To vote in all elections and public referenda and to be eligible for election to all publicly elected bodies;

(b) To participate in the formulation and implementation of government policy; hold public office and perform all public functions at all levels of government;

(c) To participate in NGOs and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country

general recommendation 23
General Recommendation 23
  • In 1997 the CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation 23 to highlight the importance it places on women's participation in decision-making and to provide guidance for States Parties on measures to be taken in eliminating discrimination against women in the political and public life. General Recommendation 23 included the need for:
  • At least 30% of women in parliament - "critical mass” for realizing real impacts
  • Ensuring women are on party lists and nominated for elections
  • Appointing more women to senior cabinet and administrative positions and advisory bodies
  • Enacting initiatives to change discriminatory attitudes towards women.
general recommendation 25
General Recommendation 25

In 1999 the Committee issued GR 25 which elaborates on article 4 of CEDAW and builds on earlier general recommendations related to temporary special measures.

Specifically GR 25 states:

  • “it is not enough to guarantee women treatment that is identical to that of men … biological as well as socially and culturally constructed differences between women and men must be taken into account. Under certain circumstances, non-identical treatment of women and men will be required in order to address such differences..

The purposes of temporary special measures are to:

  • accelerate the improvement of the position of women to achieve their de facto or substantive equality with men, and to effect the structural, social and cultural changes necessary to correct past and current forms and effects of discrimination against women, as well as to provide them with compensation.
women s political participation a sample of cedaw s concluding observations for asean members
Women’s Political ParticipationA sample of CEDAW’s Concluding Observations for ASEAN members
  • implement temporary special measures, for women’s equal participation at all levels of decision-making
  • implement awareness-raising activities about the importance of women’s participation in decision-making
  • conduct training programmes on leadership and negotiation skills for current and future women leaders
  • Monitor measures undertaken and results achieved
using quotas to address under representation of women in government
Using Quotas to address under-representation of women in government
  • Quotas should be considered for elected offices, civil service, judiciary and other critical public leadership positions where the gender gap is wide.
  • 40% of countries globally have quotas for women in national legislatures.
  • Average participation rate of women in countries with quotas is 22% vs. 14% for countries without quotas.
  • Of the 22 countries where women constitute more than 30% of the national assembly, 18 have quotas.
  • Only 1/3 of Asia-Pacific countries have gender quotas for political participation.
  • .
examples of laws addressing equality in political life
Examples of Laws addressing equality in Political Life
  • China: Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women 1992. Art 8: The State shall guarantee that women enjoy equal political rights with men. Art 10: Women shall enjoy the equal right, with men, to vote and to stand for election.
  • Lao PDR: Law on the Development and Protection of Women 2004 and Decree on the Implementation of the Law on the Development and Protection of Women 2006
  • Vietnam : Law on Gender Equality 2006
proportional representation v majority systems
Proportional Representation v. Majority systems
  • Vast majority of top 20 countries in the world - in terms of women’s presence in the legislature - use proportional representation rather than majoritarian systems.
  • This is partly because women have a greater probability of being included on a party ticket, particularly in larger districts with more than one representative.
  • With this type of system parties and voters can hedge their bets, especially if supporting a woman candidate feels like a new and risky experiment.
  • In plurality/majoritarian systems, a woman candidate usually has to compete one-on-one with a cross-section of male candidates, only one of whom will emerge the winner.
strategic approaches for advocacy on wppp
Strategic Approaches for Advocacy on WPPP
  • Women’s caucus or secretariats: Political parties with well-coordinated internal organizations of women that are able to mobilize resources can respond better to women’s demands and promote women’s political participation.
  • Women’s party sections: Women who come together as a group within a party can: lobby more concertedly for taking action on gender equality; encourage recruitment of women members and candidates; organize training; and provide support systems for women new to the party.
  • Rules, codes of conduct and election logistics: should be reviewed from a genderperspective, considering any specific constraintsthat women may encounter.
additional strategic approaches
Additional Strategic Approaches
  • Assess campaign financing: Parties can increase funds for women candidates, but electoral systems can also regulate public financing, campaign contribution limits and reporting on campaign spending, to make access to funds more democratic
  • Control violence and corruption: Women may be more hesitant to enter a campaign where they may be at risk, including being deliberately targeted for gender-based violence. Also families and communities may discourage women from competing in a dangerous arena. Corruption disadvantages women in part because they are less likely as a group to have the funds and connections to practice it.
  • Include gender equality in voter and civic education: education initiatives should stress the benefits to society of gender equality and the equal value of women and men as potential voters.

CEDAW’s Principle of Substantive Equality

CEDAW stresses the importance of equality of opportunity in terms of women’s entitlements on equal terms with men to the resources of the country which must be secured by a framework of laws and policies and supported by institutions and mechanisms for their operation.


It goes beyond this by emphasizing that state action must have results. In other words

The indicators of state progress lie not just in what the state does, but what it achieves in terms of real change for women


UN Women East and Southeast Asia

Regional Office

UN Building. 5th Floor, RajdamnernNok Avenue,

Bangkok 10200, Thailand

Telephone: + (662) 288-1684 or (662) 288-2588;

Facsimile: + (662) 280-6030

Email: cedaw.seap@unwomen.org

Website: www.unwomen.org