Setting quotas in Chile for women in politics

Published On : Wed, Dec 14th, 2011

Only 15 percent of elected officials in Chile are women, the lowest in Latin America.

The Chilean government released figures on Monday for a proposed new quota law that would encourage more women to go into politics. The bill, currently being drafted, seeks to set a minimum requirement that between 30 and 40 percent of candidates for political office are women.


A number of incentives would also be put in place to encourage greater participation, including greater state funding for candidates from parties that support women as 50 percent of their candidates.

In an effort to discourage parties from only running women for positions they are unlikely to win, another incentive would increase government funding to subsidize campaigns for women successfully elected to political office.

Among Latin American countries, Chile has the lowest participation of women in politics, at just 15 percent, according to Comunidad Mujer, an NGO that promotes women’s issues. Women occupy only five of 38 Senate offices and just 17 out of 120 total seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Twelve other Latin American countries have similar quota laws in place, with Argentina passing the first in 1991. Comunidad Mujer reported that Ecuador has had the most success with this type of law, where 50 percent of elected offices are held by women.

In recent polls, the majority of Chilean women have expressed that they believe Chile is a misogynistic country and feel discouraged from participating in politics, although their interest is growing. Chile also lacks a presence of women in high profile business positions and on boards of directors.

Despite President Sebastián Piñera’s sexist remarks last week, the leader has made this measure one of his top priorities and hopes to include it in his political and voting reform package that is targeting the October 2012 municipal elections.

Piñera has been working with Carolina Schmidt, the head of the National Women’s Service. In early November, the two met with high-profile female politicians such as National Renewal Sen. Lily Pérez, Labor Minister Evelyn Matthei and Regional Governor Cecilia Pérez for their input.

The Piñera administration has yet to decide on the breadth of the proposal, but the president is reportedly pushing for the law to apply to all non-presidential elections.

The proposal for quotas builds on a similar bill put forth under the Bachelet administration that set the minimum at 30 percent, but not for all elected offices. Former President Michelle Bachelet’s plan focused only on parliamentary and council member positions, and not mayoral offices, for example, an unpopular proposal even within her own coalition.

Legislators hope to have the law passed by March 2012 so that, “in the context of political reforms, the quota law for women should apply during the next municipal elections,” Sen. Pérez told La Tercera.

At Chile’s current rate of representation at a low 15 percent, La Tercera reports that Chile is far from meeting the Millennium Development Goals put forth by the United Nations to have 40 percent of elected officials be women by 2015.

By Stephen Shea ([email protected])
Copyright 2011 – The Santiago Times

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Abigail Olmstead