Domain 1 – Electoral system and gender quotas

This domain assesses the extent to which the national electoral system is gender-sensitive and explores whether and how gender quotas are applied.

The existence of a legal framework that supports equal representation of women and men and an electoral system that facilitates equal access is a pre-condition to the establishment of gender-sensitive public institutions, like parliaments.

The basic (although not itself sufficient) element assuring women and men equal influence on the parliament’s work is their numeric balance. Numbers of women in parliaments are collected regularly worldwide (IPU Database), and the share of seats in parliament is a widely used indicator of women’s (descriptive) political representation. A gender-sensitive electoral system can act as a pathway towards a more balanced representation in parliament.

Special legal and policy measures to strengthen women’s representation and influence in political and public life (OSCE: 2017a) can help to increase women’s chances of entering parliaments.

Gender quotas, as a form of affirmative action supporting women to overcome obstacles to their entry into parliamentary assemblies, are the most widespread measure used. Different types of quotas (i.e. voluntary or legislated) and different application methods exist (e.g. fixed share of women in lists, zipping).

A major barrier to women’s equal entry to parliament – and thus contributing to women’s under-representation – is unequal access to the resources needed to successfully seek nominations or participate in electoral campaigns (International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics: 2018; IPU: 2008; UN WOMEN and UNDP: 2015).