The women’s chair – 07/04/2021 – Maria Hermínia Tavares

Author of a precious article on the political trajectory of the doctor Carlota Pereira de Queiroz (1892-1982), sociologist Albertina Oliveira Costa likes to tell that the first Brazilian parliamentarian attended the sessions of the 1934 Constituent with a chaperone so as not to be alone in the midst of his 253 male colleagues.

No woman participated in the drafting of the 1946 Charter, which bequeathed to the country a democracy restricted to the literate. In 1988, 26 deputies – 5% of the total – helped to make the Citizen Constitution. Today, women occupy 15% of seats in the House and 13% in the Senate.

Progress has been made, but very little and very slow. For this reason, between 2006 and now, Brazil lost 26 positions in the global ranking of gender equality of the World Economic Forum, being in the very modest 93rd position among 156 nations.

When you look only at the federal legislature, the country is now on the verge of Latin America. In the three decades in which democracy has taken root in the area, affirmative action policies – often through quotas set by law – supported by political mobilization, social activism and the performance of the judiciary have considerably increased women’s participation in political institutions. Today, almost half of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate of Mexico and about 42% in Argentina are occupied by women.

In Brazil, the first quota law for candidates to the Legislature dates from 1997. It was followed by other rules set by the Superior Electoral Court that dealt with caulking breaches. Despite this, little progress has been made. The causes of such a small change towards a greater gender balance in political representation were discussed in recent debates promoted by UN Women and by the Political Science Institute of the University of Brasília, accessible on Youtube.

There is no way to disagree with Professor Flavia Biroli, from UnB, when she says that the biggest obstacles are in the electoral rules and in the strategies of party leaders.

On the one hand, the open candidate list system makes life difficult for women, especially those who have few resources and lack powerful family or social networks. International experience shows that closed and pre-organized electoral lists favor the representation of women and minorities.

It was this system that, in 1933, allowed the election of Dr. Carlota. More important, in any case, seem to be the decisions of those who control the parties and who act as sentinels who, with some exceptions, keep them as male fortresses.

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