Women in Parliament

Democracy, as practiced in our world today, is based on the principle of representation. Citizens of any democratic country has a right to vote, run for office and be elected. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Executive Director on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, and former President of Chile, emphasized this point when she recently addressed the Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference of Women Speakers of Parliament in India. “You cannot have representation of a population that is half women without having them be part of decision-making” she says. Statistically today, women constitute 51 percent of the world’s population. But the average of women in parliament is only 20 percent. After four decades of UN organized World Conference on Women, it is sad to say that men still make most important decision on how a country should be organized and run. To solve this problem, Ms. Bachelet is advocating for affirmative action as temporary special measures until we have a level playing field. She urges governments to adopt “quota” as special measure to increase the number of women in parliament and in decision-making positions. I am of half-minded about “quota” being used for gender equality when it comes to national election because it interferes with people’s freedom of choice to elect whomever they want, whether they are male or female, to represent them in parliament. But I cannot ignore the fact that through the use of “quota” as special measure, the number of countries that reached 30 percent of women in parliament has risen from 27 to 33 today. I therefore wish Ms. Bachelet best of luck in this difficult task which requires a world-wide change of attitude of the traditional male and female role in society.

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