Gender gap in politics likely to continue in Brazil

Despite making up the majority of voters, women are scant in Congress

Published on 10/08/2018 - 18:40 By Heloisa Cristaldo - Brasília

Despite a recent change in Brazilian legislation—all political parties in the country must now earmark at least 30 percent of a $469 million fund to women’s campaigns—the current landscape for female participation may remain virtually unaltered. The conclusion was drawn by political analyst Antônio Augusto de Queiroz, director for documentation at the Inter-union Department for Parliamentary Advisory Council (Diap).

To Queiroz’s judgment, the new rule may help expand women’s involvement in public life, but is not likely to be enough to redress the imbalance between men and women in Congress.

A preliminary Diap survey shows that the coming elections should see a high number of politicians re-elected, which may impact the number of women in office.

“Only if our electoral system were to include a closed-list ballot and gender alternation could this be permanently solved,” he argued. He pointed out that the Brazilian Congress is predominantly male, with women totaling a mere ten percent.

The new 30-percent rule came in a decision made unanimously by Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court (TSE) in response to a motion brought forth by members of both congressional houses. The court authorities understood that air time on TV and the radio should also follow the same division.

The percentage—which accounts for approximately $42 million—was introduced as a condition for the granting of funds. However, how exactly the funds are to distributed within each party is up to its national commission, which may earmark this quota for any candidacy—for president, senator, federal and state deputy, state governor, and city councilor.

Brazil second to last

Today, the Brazilian Congress has 54 women among its 513 federal deputies—members of the Chamber of Deputies, as the Brazilian lower house is called—and 92 senators. On a list entitled Women in Politics 2017, compiled by the Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women, Brazil ranks 32nd among the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries according to the proportion of women in the National Congress. The average in Latin America and the Caribbean is 28.8 percent. With close to ten percent of female parliamentarians elected, Brazil is above Belize (3.1 percent) alone. Atop the list is Bolivia, with 53.1 percent of women in Parliament.

Brazil also occupies one of the lowest positions (154th) on a global ranking with 172 countries, which takes into account the country’s current women’s participation rate—10.5 percent in the lower house, 14.8 percent in the Senate.

Recent official data reveal that women make up the majority of voters in Brazil (52.5 percent). Nonetheless, in 2014, when the last majority elections were held, women added up to 31.4 percent of candidates, of whom only 15 percent were elected.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Juliana Andrade / Nira Foster

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