Graduation Year

2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Political Science

Major Professor

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Keywords

Feminism, Political participation, Electoral systems, Argentina, Brazil

Abstract

Assuming gender neutrality in comparative analysis, i.e. not including either explicit or implicit references to a particular gender or sex, runs the risk of camouflaging the unequal distribution of political power, economic influence, and political access for men and women. Unfortunately, in assuming such neutrality, one is blinded to the inherent flaws of political systems, the inequalities they create, and their lack of consideration of gender and women's rights. To counteract this inequality between the sexes, women's social movements are fighting to create gender awareness and establish formal policies that place them at the same level as their male counterparts, and feminist ideals are slowly becoming more prominent. As in other regions, in Latin America, quota laws have been established as affirmative action-type mechanisms that are meant to create a balance in view of the inequalities women face in ascending to political office.

My study focuses on whether or not quota laws have increased women's presence in Latin American political legislatures and if they have met the intended objectives by the women's social movements that advocated for them. My results indicate that quota laws have not worked in every Latin American country to dramatically increase women's presence in politics. The literature also suggests that quota laws have not entirely been able to produce the desired outcomes as proposed by women's social movements in the region. I also address the question of what has made quota laws successful in some countries, yet not in others. My research indicates that the effectiveness of quota laws depends on how they are drafted and implemented, that is if institutions have effectively been altered and if the government is taking specific measures to ensure that the law is being enforced.

Since women have not been able to rely on the good faith of the political parties to determine their entry to positions of public authority, traditional procedures for candidate selection have been in need of alteration. I conclude that if quota laws are not customized to a country's electoral system and applied meticulously by political parties, they will hardly produce any results for women.

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