More women in politics: why Ukraine has gender quotas
The 2020 local elections were the first when parties were required to comply with gender quotas. We worked out how effective the innovation is, how the parties adhere to them, and what women have to face in politics
As in most post-Soviet countries, there's a system of gender inequality preserved in Ukraine. We especially feel it in areas previously considered purely masculine, such as politics. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples. It's enough to recall the story of the "ship pine" in the Rada.
What do women have to face?
In September, a labyrinth appeared right in front of the Verkhovna Rada. It was an exposition showing what women who decide to build a career in this field have to go through.
To get out of the maze, you need to go past the kitchen utensils hung from the ceiling, past stereotypical thinking, and "You're a girl!" on all sides, past the contemptuous looks and shameful expressions of men. The exhibition was installed on the initiative of "Women are 50% of Ukraine's success," a social project aimed at activating and supporting women in public and political life.
The major problems and obstacles for women in politics are sexism, bullying, harassment. According to a lawyer Polina Aldoshyna, domestic discrimination still prevails in the public consciousness, not to mention the professional field: "Discrimination against women's work befalls not only in the political sphere. Cleaning, washing, raising children are mostly up to women, but homework is still devalued."
"People need to restructure these stereotypes in their minds. At least by their own example. Think about it. We have a representative democracy, women make up over 50 percent of Ukraine's population, and up to 20% only represented in politics," a lawyer Polina Aldoshyna offers the numbers.
State quotas. No less than 40% of women in parties
At the end of last year, a new electoral code was signed, which provides for introducing gender quotas at 40%. It means that in each of the party-list fivesome, there must be at least 2 women and 2 men, and the last "vacant" seat is optional. The quota has existed before, since 2015. But then it was 30%, and optional. No one punished anyone for non-compliance, but there was financial encouragement. If they maintained the quota, the party received more funding from the budget. Now the quota is mandatory: the parties where they don't keep the quota are denied to registration.
Why is it important to introduce this quota? Lawyer Yuliia Lushpiienko believes that gender quotas in politics will allow Ukraine, among other things, to rise to a higher level in achieving gender equality. "In Ukraine, the lower the level of political governance, for example, united territorial community or city councils, the more women are in elected positions. First, it shows that women also want to work in elected positions, they have proper education, experience, and qualifications, but don't always have access to higher levels, including through various discriminatory phenomena," she said.
Quotas will now be mandatory in both parliamentary and local elections. The party system will obligatory act in elections on all councils, where the number of voters exceeds 90 thousand. This list includes all regional councils and 30 city councils.
"If a political party fails to follow these requirements when nominating candidates ensuring a certain level of presence in the electoral lists and lists of female and male candidates, the territorial election commission will refuse to register all candidates," Central Election Commission (CEC) member Victoriia Glushchenko told CHESNO Movement.
What countries have the most women parliamentarians in the world?
Quotas introduced in Ukraine are considered compulsory, although the previous model had voluntary nature. Slightly more than half of the EU member countries have voluntary party quotas. Some social democratic parties in Western Europe introduced them in the 1970s. Most women (40-45%) are in the parliaments of Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Iceland, Norway. And the least (10% – 13%) are in Hungary, Romania, Cyprus, and Malta. But the best results remain in countries where strict quotas have been introduced for seats in parliament. We find this quota in third world countries. Due to such quotas that there are 58% of women in the Rwandan parliament, 25% in Afghanistan, and 27% in Iraq.
However, we can achieve results not only by introducing strict quotas. Another factor is the political will and state attitude that will support women in politics and existing parties and women's movements that will lobby for their promotion to parliament.
Increasing the number of women in the parliament gives conducive results and significantly changes the directions where the authority "is looking." For example, parliaments with over 40% of women are more likely to make decisions that promote inclusion, poverty alleviation, environmental risk minimization, and "quality" economic growth.
How many women will be in local politics in Ukraine now?
Activists of the CHESNO public movement calculated the minimum number of candidates that should be on the party lists and will run for city councils (30 in total in Ukraine). The number should be 621 women.
In regional councils, the gender minimum makes together 668 women.
"The gender quota itself is artificial and temporary," a lawyer Polina Aldoshyna says. "Almost all countries did it. The only nuance is that they passed this stage 50-60 years ago. And now, I think, each year, women are becoming stronger and more successful. Soon, a gender quota will be introduced for men in European countries," Polina laughs. "European countries introduced the quota in the 1960s to set an example. It will take 5 years and girls still in school or university will see someone they already know in the local or regional council. These quotas are definitely a positive shift for Ukraine," Ms. Aldoshyna believes.
Yuliia Lushpiienko believes that introducing a quota does not downplay the professionalism of future deputies: "Some sociologists say that election quotas are not always about professionalism and proper training. I disagree. Quotas don't disqualify the level of education, level of training, and the opportunity for women to take part in political life."
Where to complain about the displays of sexism?
Representatives of women's NGOs presented the project "Elections without sexism." It's a monitoring project where you can complain about sexism and bullying through a chatbot, and the bot will offer free legal and psychological help to women who will take part in the elections. The first week since registering election lists has led to several lawsuits, including violations of the gender quota.
The chatbot is available on the initiative's Facebook page. You can contact it via the social network or report violations by calling 0 800 302 510.