A Constitutional Perspective on Electoral Gender Quotas

Countries around the world have witnessed a tremendous increase in women’s numerical representation in Parliament. This has largely been attributed to the introduction of gender quotas in more than 130 countries world-wide. The 9 countries on top of the world classification of women’s representation in Parliament, however, form a heterogeneous set, covering three continents, varying levels of economic development or egalitarian societal values, and representing democratic as well as authoritarian regimes.  If, as has been claimed, ‘true’ democracy implies gender parity, then this cannot be turned around: gender parity in Parliament does not in itself imply democracy. Authoritarian regimes may have a high proportion of women in parliament, whereas democratic societies may show a poor record in this respect. The link between gender parity and ‘true’ democracy, then, is largely a conceptual one: what a ‘true’ democracy is, depends on a society’s portrayal of mankind, reflected in legal models of representation. In this presentation, we are interested in how democracy and women’s representation are related in a conceptual way. More specifically, we are interested in models of representation underpinning democratic concepts, and what this means for the use and constitutionality of gender quota.