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Women in Belgian Politics

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Holly Barker

on 6 February 2014

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Transcript of Women in Belgian Politics

Prior to the introduction of a legal quota, Belgium had very low levels of female representation in parliament.

In 1994, Belgium adopted its first legal quota, which stated that no more than 2/3 of candidates on electoral lists could be from the same sex.

The quota was not put into effect until the 1999 federal election, where the representation of women in parliament increased by almost 10%.

2002 Gender Quotas Act
New features to the electoral system: more balanced list & female candidates distributed in more eligible list positions

Double quotas apply to first two list positions, which cannot be occupied by candidates of the same sex

A product of mutual contagion effect; ; some parties were already employing 5050 quotas
Women in Belgian Politics
There has never been a female Prime Minister
Of 12
, 5 are currently women:
Minister of the Interior, Minister of Social Affairs and Health, Minister of the Middle-class, SMEs, Self-Employed, and Agriculture, Minister of Justice, Minister of Employment

Of 6
Secretaries of State
, 1 is currently a woman:
SoS for Asylum, Immigration, and Social Integration
1994 Legal Quota
Kylee van der Poorten and Holly Barker
Of the 10 provinces, 2 currently have female Governors
House: 150 seats
Senate: 71 seats, 40 directly elected
Prior to the quota, Belgium was ranked
for women's representation in parliament and only
of seats were taken by women.
After the quota, Belgium was ranked
of seats were taken by women.
Suffrage achieved; post WW2 Belgium is inspired by a new belief in democratic values and French women's suffrage in 1944

Point of dispute is no longer the principle of suffrage but its moment of coming into force

First time women obtain the same passive and active suffrage as men
Legislated Quotas
First legislated candidate quotas

Stipulates no more than two-thirds of an electoral list may consist of candidates of same sex

In the case of noncompliance, public authorities will not accept lists and thus parties will be disqualified from running
Gender Quotas Act
More balanced electoral lists (50/50) and minimal occupation of eligible seats by members of under-represented sex in addition to

Mutual contagion effect
Women gain right to vote at the municipal level
Widows & mothers of those lost in WWI granted right to vote at national level

Post WW1 Catholic political groups support 'passive suffrage' (the right to run) although women still could not vote at the national & provincial level

Contribution women made towards defending Belgian interests in WW1 propels their movement towards greater representation

Women gain the right to get elected and co-opted
However, women's representation in the executive did not increase correspondingly.

After the
2 of 14
ministerial positions and
0 of 2
secretary of state positions were filled by women.

After the
3 of 14
ministerial positions and
0 of 3
secretary of state positions were filled by women.

BBC. "Belgium Profile." Last modified Jan 9, 2014.

Celis, Karen. “Substantive Representation of Women: The
Representation of Women’s Interests and the Impact of
Descriptive Representation in the Belgian Parliament (1900-1979).”
Journal of Women, Politics & Policy
28.2 (2006): 85-114. http://pa.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/03/03/pa.gsq061.full.

"European Database: Women in Decision-Making". August, 2000.

IPU. "Women in National Parliaments."

Meier, Petra. “The Mutual Contagion Effect of Legal and Party Quotas,
A Belgian Perspective.”
Party Politics
10.5 (2004): 583-600. http://www.partypolitics.org/Volume10/v10i5p583.htm

Portal Belgium. "Government." 2009.

Quota Project. "Belgium." Last modified Jan 22, 2014.
Women were granted the right to run for office before they gained suffrage

Combination of legislated candidate quotas, legal sanctions for noncompliance, and electoral reform in regards to rank order have worked to increase women's representation in Parliament.

Legal quotas worked with party quotas already implemented or introduced in the 1990s.

However, we have yet to see women comprise 50% of the seats in Parliament and they still very underrepresented in other areas, (e.g. the executive).

Reasons for current levels of women's representation in Belgium
1994 Quota: put limits on domination of electoral lists by one sex

2002 Quota: instituted stipulations on rank positions that were highly effected
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