Women’s Status: East and West, Research Paper Example
Words: 7202Research Paper
Participation of Women in Politics – Global Perspectives. Finland and Indonesia
According to the Geneva Inter-Parliamentary Union document created in 1999, the Beijing Effect, designed to increase women`s representation in politics has failed to deliver its goals so far. The number of women as executives hardly increased in the following four years, and the number of women in parliament failed to grow on a global scale. The study carried out by the committee also found that women’s interest is also under-represented in political parties’ manifestos around the world. Written more than 15 years ago, the document highlights some of the major challenges related to women`s rights and political representation. The below study is designed to reveal how different the opportunities provided for women to actively take part in politics is in the Eastern and Western part of the world. In order to complete the study, there is a need to review the differences between political systems and cultural traditions in the East and West. The current research will also focus on the impact of democratic movements and traditions on women’s political rights, and policies that aim for equal representation and opportunities. The main thesis that the author of the current study is attempting to make is that Eastern type (collectivist) cultures are less likely to promote equal political representation of women than individualistic, democratic Western countries. In order to analyze the below statement, the current research will evaluate cultural traits of societies, political systems, and other factors that can impact public perception about women’s representation in parliaments and local authority leaderships. As Doepke et al. (2) states: “We focus on legal rights to emphasize the distinction between equality in opportunity as opposed to equality in outcomes”.
Research Objectives and Outline
The researcher would like to compare and contrast women’s political representation in two culturally and politically diverse countries: Finland and Indonesia. Finland, a Northern European country with strong democratic traditions represents the Cultural West. Indonesia, a new democracy, with a lack of democratic traditions represents the Cultural West. The author would like to review related research and evidence, in order to reveal the difference in cultures, traditions, political systems, social factors, and women’s roles in order to outline the factors that impact women’s participation rates in politics. The researcher is aiming to provide a framework for policymakers that would highlight the most successful approaches focusing on increasing women’s political power.
Except for a few countries, men gained a right to vote significantly earlier than women. This means that masculine values were introduced into politics earlier than feminine ones. The above trend is present worldwide, however, democratic movements have long been attempting to increase women’s political representation in every aspect of life. In countries where male superiority is still a common belief of the society, it is harder for women to fight for recognition. In countries, however, where the foundations of democracy go back centuries, it is easier to communicate policies focusing on gender equality. The culture of the country, the strength of gender bias, and the traditions define a country’s ability to introduce reforms that focus on equal representation of genders. In Europe and the United States, women obtained equal rights earlier than in less developed parts of the world. Hence, there is a division between the cultural East and West, when it comes to gender equality, and consequently political representation of women. Uden (387), for example, states that Chinese culture has strong bias related to women, and this relates to their abilities to perform different tasks, represent their own interest, or make objective decisions.
Cultural And Ideological Elements of Women’s Participation in Politics
One of the studies created by Bari for the United Nations summarizes the main factors that hinder women`s participation in politics. The main factors that the author analyzes are ideological, political, socio-cultural, and economic. Further, in countries where there is a lack of social capital and strategies to promote women’s participation in politics, females have less chance of embarking on a career in politics. While some Western countries have recently introduced quotas, this still does not seem to solve the problem. It is, therefore, clear to state that women’s under-representation of women in politics is not only a problem in the cultural East, but also has remaining challenges in the West.
One of the main aspects of gender representation is cultural and ideological. There are, indeed variations between the individualistic and collectivist cultures, however, it is little known how these differences impact women’s political rights. First, it is important to evaluate the characteristics of individualist and collectivist countries’ traits. It is, therefore, necessary to review Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions theory and their application to different attitudes towards women in various countries. Researchers have already found a close relationship between the wealth of the country, birth rates, and history and the cultural dimension. However, so far not many authors focused on the impact of culture on the political participation of women. Therefore, it is important to review statistical data next, in order to reveal the connection between the cultural dimensions of the country and the political participation of women.
According to Iwanaga, the country’s level of development has an impact on the number of women in the parliament. However, as the below review and statistical analysis is going to show, economic and democratic traditions are only one part of the picture. While developed countries are more likely to have a democratic approach towards politics and gender equality, and women are more likely to have access to education in the West, the question is not that simple. In Asia, for example, the picture is extremely mixed. The concept of facilitators, applied by Iwanaga suggests that in order to increase the number of women in the country’s politics, there is a need for three different types of facilitators: institutional, contextual, and individually oriented. However, the author also mentions that political systems and cultures can act as facilitators, as well. For example, traditional sex roles within the country would define not only the likeliness of parties to appoint female representatives, but also educated females’ likeliness to enter the world of politics. The greater the division of sex roles is the less likely women are going to be represented in the country’s politics. Likewise, the country’s political culture has an impact on females’ representation. Those countries with a violent and corrupt political lineup would not be as likely to attract female candidates as those that have a democratic system. Socioeconomic facilitators, on the other hand, are relevant to the topic of the current study. Women’s socioeconomic status is likely to restrict their social mobility, and access to education / opportunities.
Based on a recent publication by the Women in International Parliaments, the percentage of women in the world’s parliament shows a mixed picture. In Rwanda, for example 63% of lower single house representatives are women, while in Oman, it is 1.2 percent. Looking at countries with long democratic traditions, belonging to the cultural
West, the United Kingdom has a participation rate of below 30 percent, while The United States’ figures are below 20 percent. Some of the countries that belong to the cultural East, like Singapore are ahead of some of the democratic countries. One important trend, however, can be spotted, and should be reviewed when analyzing countries’ cultural traits’ impact on women’s participation in politics. Caribbean and South American countries generally rank higher than Western type states. Bolivia, for example, has a lower house participation of women above 50 percent, and 47.2 percent in upper house. Mexico and Nicaragua rank high, as well. Islamic countries, on the other hand, rank much lower, based on cultural and religious beliefs affecting the society. Only 1.5 percent of the parliament in Kuwait are women, and Qatar has no women at all.
The above review of statistics shows that a country’s culture is likely to impact not only women’s status in general, but their political involvement and participation, as well. Looking at some trends, it is evident that Latin American countries generally have a higher woman population in politics than countries that are considered to belong to the historical West. Further, Eastern European countries’ women’s political participation is generally lower than those in Western Europe, due to the 40 years of communism that affected the country’s culture and political traditions. Muslim countries’ view on women’s role also seems to impact the gender ratios in parliaments.
Gender Differences: A Review
On the European scale, the European Parliament’s recent white paper has highlighted some of the main gender differences that might have an impact on future policies aiming to increase women’s political participation. In order to review the global initiatives and results, it is important to cover these trends. First of all, more women are entering the world of non-governmental activism and social work than men. That means that there is an alternative choice for European women to represent their gender. Further, it is found that women are more likely to enter politics in a non-formal way. As the majority of mainstream politics represents “masculine” values, many women feel disconnected from mainstream party ideologies. The lack of resources might also impact women’s participation in politics. An interesting point made by the authors of the document is that women are often socialized against entering a political career. Negative portrayal of women and strong gender bias can also hinder women’s access to a political career.
From the theoretical perspective, it is also important to review some gender-related research. Costa et al. created a comprehensive study of gender differences identified by theorists and psychological researchers. These theories will be reviewed below in order to decide whether or not gender differences have an impact on political participation. While the author of the current study argues that gender equality is mainly influenced by culture, political system, and traditional views of gender roles, the possibility that women’s attitudes towards politics impact their likeliness to take part in politics cannot be excluded.
One of the emerging themes related to gender differences is openness to experience. According to the theory, men are guided by reason, while women are influenced by emotions. Women’s anxiety tolerance was also found to be higher than men’s and this indicates that the majority of women might not be able to cope with the stress imposed on them by the life in politics. However, the author found that personality has less to do with a woman’s ability to enter politics: cultural aspects of gender bias, however, had a great impact on women’s representation in politics. Countries where gender differentiation is high are likely to have a lower representation of females in local government and the parliamentary system. The findings of the study confirm that “gender differences are modest in magnitude, consistent with gender stereotypes, and replicable across cultures” (Costa et al., 328). That stated, it is confirmed that bias related to gender roles have a greater impact on women’s self-perception and willingness to participate in politics than their personality traits.
Women’s Status: Global View
According to the Geneva Inter-Parliamentary Union, there is a strong relationship between awareness of gender issues and women’s representation in the national parliament. Based on a large-scale survey completed by the organization, surveying national parliament, governments where women’s representation is high are more likely to focus on women’s gender-specific issues. Likewise, parliament where these issues are debated on a regular basis are more likely to attract female representatives.
According to Shvedova (33), “women who want to enter politics find that the political, public, cultural and social environment is often unfriendly or even hostile to them”. The environment of politics and the society, however, is impacted by the country’s culture. Therefore, it is important to review whether or not there are some theories that can be successfully applied to prove the above-described relationship.
The author lists various obstacles that stand in the way of women to gain equal representation in politics. One of the obstacles lies in the political system. The very first time when women gained the right to vote was 1893, in New Zealand. However, men in the majority of countries held this basic right for much longer than women, with the exclusion of Finland, which is one of the countries that the researcher is looking to examine in detail below. This means that men have a generally longer tradition of taking active part in political decisions than women. The customs have been embedded in the culture of the country, and still influence people’s thoughts about gender roles. The author, on the other hand, provides a new perspective to the problem. While in 95 percent of countries women have the right to vote, their rights are still restricted, given the fact that the majority of candidates are male. The author goes even further than that, stating that the “low level of women’s representation in some European parliaments should be considered a violation of women’s fundamental democratic right and, as such, a violation of their basic human rights” (Shvedova, 34). The main challenges that females who are looking to enter the world of politics need to face lie in the political system, society, and the culture of the country. The presence of the “masculine” political model would certainly make it harder for a female candidate to successfully compete for a parliamentary seat. The lack of support from parties and sponsors, due to the lack of belief in women’s ability in general also hinders females’ political participation. The lack of network links with non-profit and labor organizations also makes it harder for a female representative to become a member of a parliament. In some countries – mostly developing states – the lower access to education will also reduce women’s chances to take part in politics. There are simply not enough women in some countries who can get access to relevant education and gain the qualifications that are needed for their desired position.
Further, there are some global socio-economic obstacles, which are more prevalent in some countries than others. The social and economic status of women is different in a Nordic state than in an Islamic country. Indeed, the restrictions of roles and rights founded in the culture will affect not only women’s participation in social and political rights, but also their own perceptions about their abilities. Women’s restricted participation in labor force, due to the clearly defined gender roles will translate to lower rate of participation in politics. As Shvedova (40) states: “culture is related to development, and as development increases women’s standing in society relative to men becomes more equal”. Some important perquisites for women’s participation in politics have been identified above, such as having the right to vote, access to education, and work. This indicates that the culture of the country, and its beliefs about gender roles has a great impact on women’s political representation.
Shedova does not only cover political and cultural reasons for low representation of women in national parliaments, but goes further in her analysis. The author is listing some important ideological and psychological hindrances, which will reduce a country’s gender equality. The country’s traditional gender ideology would restrict women to predefined social roles. Therefore, it is likely that countries that have a tradition for feminist ideology and women’s movements would have a higher representation of women in parliaments. The above statement also indicates that Eastern type societies will be less tolerant toward women looking to start a political career than Western types. Women would also have personality traits that makes them less confident than men, due to their inferior status.
Comparative Analysis: East and West
Several studies have been completed to compare the East and West based on women’s rights, social status, and political representation. Iwanaga, for example researched women’s political status and power in Asian countries. While in most of these countries’ women were allowed to vote, and represented a large voting power, they were found to be under-represented in Asia. Some of the perspectives and ideologies used to explain the above phenomenon are covered by the author (Iwanaga). While the article looks at Asia as a region, instead of individual countries, and the author admits that political and social trends, setups differ within the region, some trends are clearly highlighted in the study. The article creates a comparison between Asian countries and “industrial democracies”. One of the main reasons that the study highlights related to the difference in women’s representation in politics between the two groups of countries is based on the fact that women in Asia received the right to vote later in history than in industrial democracies. This indicates that political and social traditions impact women’s participation rates in politics. The first Asian country that granted women the right to vote was Sri Lanka, back in 1931 (Iwanaga, 1). That means that democratic traditions have a direct impact on the political setup of the country. Another interesting idea presented by the authors is that while many countries around the world now have quotas, those that use an incremental track model (a fast-track political career and apprenticeship for women) are more successful in increasing female participation in politics. The author provides some examples for successful implementation of policies and approaches, such as those applied in the Nordic countries. Therefore, in order to reveal the true contrast, it is favorable for the researcher of the current study to compare and contrast an Asian country and a Northern European (Nordic) country based on programs designed for women to gain higher representation in politics, and the statistical figures, as well.
Research created by Parawansa highlights the fact that in Indonesia’s parliament women have had a long history of struggle for power. Currently ranking 86th in the international table, created by Women in National Parliaments at 17.1 percent of female representation, the country certainly faces several issues and challenges to increase women’s participation in politics. One of the important historical factors that the author ( Parawansa, 82) mentions is that even though “women played a major role, in the armed services and generally in the public sphere, during the struggle for independence up to and after 1945”, later the “patriarchal values broadly re-emerged”. This indicates that there was a backwards development, and while women were starting to realize their potential, they were held back by traditional visions held about females in the society.
Reviewing recent changes of the electoral system, the author states that a new provision was introduced during the 2004 general elections of Indonesia, recommending that at least 30 percent of candidates presented by political parties would be women, described as “maybe quota” by Parawansa (84). While the above provision was followed by many political parties, the initiative did not achieve its goals, and women’s representation in the parliament remains low. Further national and international interventions were introduced in order to increase women’s participation in legislatures. However, these recommendations were merely “broad guidelines”, and mainly focused on improving educational equality and social status of women in Indonesia. The “Broad Guidelines” are no longer in place. In the regional government (District People’s
Representative Assemblies), for example, only 5 percent are women. The 2005 statistics represented by the author somewhat differ from the figures published by the Women in National Parliaments for 2015. According to the publication (Parawansa, 85), taking into consideration all legislative institutions in the country, the gender landscape of the country’s administration shows a colorful picture. In the upper house, women made up 21 percent of representatives, and in the constituent assembly this was 11.5 percent. 14.8 percent of Supreme Court members were women, while only 1.5 percent of mayors were female.
The role of gender bias
One of the findings presented by Parawansa (86) is that “there is still a tendency for women to hold posts that are traditionally seen as ‘soft’. This indicates that gender bias and cultural beliefs about women’s traditional roles impacts the political landscape of the country. The highest representation of women is shown in a table, and highlights the differences based on political areas. 31.1 percent of the Religion, Social and Women Empowerment Commission were women, but the same figure in Defense, International Affairs, and Information was only 2.1 percent.
The main obstacles that prevent women from entering politics are highlighted by the study. One of the reasons provided by the author is clearly related to the current topic of research. According to Parawansa (87), the “cultural context in Indonesia is still heavily patriarchal”. This cultural trait is deeply embedded in the traditions and beliefs, and determines gender bias within the country. The above statement seems to prove that there is a connection between the country’s traditions and cultural traits and women’s representation in politics. The second reason provided by the author is based on the assessment of the country’s political system. As the research confirms, most political party candidates are elected by party leaders, who are males. Therefore, it is likely that gender preferences of the party leadership, deeply carved in the organization’s culture hinder women’s participation in politics. The lack of media exposure of gender issues, and the lack of discourse about female empowerment is also blamed for the lack of public awareness. The public’s attitudes towards women as politicians can be shaped and influenced by the media, as it will be later proven by the Finnish example. Further, the lack of effective networking and collaboration among democratic and women’s organizations holds back movements focusing on gender equality.
Another important aspect of gender under representation in politics is related to the lack of education among females. In Indonesia, for example, poverty is a barrier for entering higher education for many women. In order to compete in elections, candidates need to have at least a high school diploma. This excludes women from poor families, and there are no empowerment programs and scholarship projects that would make it possible for girls living in disadvantaged families to become educated. That stated, it is clear that in Indonesia the lack of opportunities for females translates to lower political representation.
While there are some strategies in place in Indonesia to improve women’s political representation, they are ineffective due to the lack of collaboration and funding.
There are some positive trends, however, regarding the empowerment of young women and including them in education, even though it will take time and a change in mindset until the gender landscape of the country changes. A recent East West Center study confirms that female participation in secondary education in Indonesia has been increasing in the past three decades. In 1975, the percentage of girls in secondary education was only 15, in 1985 this increased to 35, but tertiary education participation was zero. In 1995, however, female participation was 48 percent in secondary education, and 8 percent in tertiary education.
Political landscape and impact of shared beliefs on women’s roles
The Regional Gender Programme in South-East Asia created a complete country profile for Indonesia. As the research was carried out years after the study published by Parawansa, it is important to review the current and most recent themes and trends identified in this study.
The study focuses on the recent changes in the political system and landscape of the country, and their impact on democratic movements. The author puts the beginning of the democratization process in Indonesia to 1997, when the “New Order“ regime of Suharto collapsed. The liberalization of civil organizations and activist groups has opened new avenues for women’s advocacy. However, the authors also state that ideological changes have impacted beliefs related to women’s participation in politics. As the country review concludes, the new era “gave way to a climate of political violence and to the most fundamentalist tendencies of political Islamism, which even at present position themselves against women’s presence in the political and public arenas basing themselves on the holy texts and in the Sharia” (Labani et al.,7). The above statement is also clearly relevant to the topic of the current research, as it clearly highlights the impact of political belief systems and ideologies on public bias related to women’s roles in the society. In the case of Indonesia, the changes were founded in fundamentalist religious beliefs, and were forced on to the society as rules. The election of Megawati Sukarnoputri, as the first female president in 2001 was an important milestone. Still, the study claims that having a female president did not change the common belief about women’s roles in society. Instead of seeing a drastic increase of female representation in politics, the figures simply declined.
Confirming the previously noted connection between the culture and women’s representation, the study also states that the patriarchal traditions of Indonesia reflect on views on women’s role, and translate to lower representation of females in politics. However, the authors find an extremely relevant link that is not clearly revealed in Parawansa’s study, mainly women’s lack of access to necessary resources to be able to compete for political influence. The society’s beliefs and traditional views about women mean that many women are restricted by their husbands to enter a political career, even if they have the necessary ambition and education. The role of gender bias, on the other hand, is not simple. While women feel like they are restricted by the society’s views, they also internalize the gender roles assigned to them, and this simply prevents them from having a political ambition.
The democratic tradition in Indonesia is very young, therefore, it is not clearly embraced by the society, and it is not embedded in the political system. Further, it is important to note that the politics of Indonesia, as a relatively new democracy are defined by nepotism and corruption, as well as political violence, and this makes it less suitable for women to enter.
Limitations embedded in the political system
There are some cultural and systematic limitations present in the political system of Indonesia, as well. First of all, as it has already been mentioned, the majority of party leaders and individuals with political influence are male, and they are likely to elect those with connection and power. Second, important meetings and decision-making committee gatherings take place late at night, and women can simply not be present at this time, due to cultural restrictions of gender bias. There are no official “women’s agendas” in the political, parliamentary, and political system, and the lack of awareness among the people of Indonesia also restrict democratic movements.
As a conclusion, the two sources reviewed both confirmed that women’s rights and political representation in Indonesia are affected by various factors: social, cultural, religious, and political. The next country analysis, focusing on a long established democracy, Finland is attempting to reveal that social attitudes towards women’s rights and roles greatly impact the political representation and participation of the country’s female population.
According to Hoodfar and Tajali (87), “Finland is one of the most interesting and key cases for feminist activists engaged in promoting electoral gender equality”. The above statement refers to the political initiatives that are present in Nordic countries, and the traditions of women’s rights movements in Northern Europe that favored women’s greater representation in parliament, as well as civic organizations. The case study created by the authors reviews the electoral system and historical traits of the country, in order to reveal the underlying principles of the Finnish society that make it easier for women to take part in politics. The Finnish case is interesting from the researcher’s point of view, as a high gender diversity rate was achieved without the government’s quota-based intervention. The tradition of feminist ideologies and activism has had a great impact on the society’s views about women’s roles, and there was no need to imply quotas: higher representations were achieved than in European countries where quotas were set or reserved, the United Kingdom, for example. The above statement confirms the initial perquisite of the study that the culture and society’s views have a great impact on women’s opportunities to take part in politics. Today, according to the Women in National Parliaments’ statistics, 41.5 percent of government members are female, and Finland stands on the 10th place in the world.
What sets Finland apart from other European countries, and makes its democratic development unique is that women received their voting rights at the same time as men. This simple fact, indeed has made a difference. Instead of building a democracy that is based on a masculine view of politics, women were always a part of the decision-making process. They were not treated as inferior for any time. At the time when the democratic system of the country was being formed, women could influence decisions as much as men. As the authors summarize the uniqueness of Finland’s democracy: “women were never subject to political exclusion” (Hoodfar and Tajal, 88). This social and political trend is likely to have affected the number of women in parliament today. On the first election, back in 1907, women outvoted men in several districts.
According to Hoodfar and Tajali, the ideology of individual parties and the mainstream population also impacts the number of women in parliament. Interestingly, the authors mention the drop in the number of women in parliament within former Eastern bloc countries, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Interestingly, the communist ideology was more suitable for representing women (possibly due to breaking up with national and cultural traditions) than the ideologies that followed. Further, the Women’s movement that took place in the Nordic states during the history has impacted common perceptions about the roles of genders. From the ideological perspective, the study makes an interesting remark: “Some scholars claim that Nordic societies are inherently gender equal, with a cultural openness to women’s presence in the public sphere” (Hoodfar and Tajali, 89). While the above statement is not confirmed, it highlights the fact that a country’s culture impacts the public’s attitudes towards gender roles, therefore, the roots of women’s equality lie in the traditions and mainstream ideology adapted by the entire society. In Finland, it is clear that tolerance towards diversity is embedded in culture, and the country is one of the least discriminative in the world.
Further conditions favoring high female representation in Finland
Apart from the strong women’s rights movements in Nordic states, and the fact that women gained voting rights at the same time as men, there are other factors highlighted by Hoodfar and Tajal that contributed towards the high number of women in the Finnish parliament. First, the electoral system of Finland was not excluding women, therefore, the high number of female voters could cast a vote on female candidates, and they believed that they represented their interest the best. The electoral democracy, combined with the women’s rights movement meant that female voters were encouraged to vote for candidates who represented their gender, and this increased women’s chances of gaining a seat. Therefore, imposing quotas became unnecessary. The ideological foundation of this gender equality is clearly visible. While in the previous country analysis it has been revealed that recommended quotas did not translate to higher number of women in the parliament, the missing link is clear. Finnish women believe that females can be trusted to hold a political position, and they also think that someone who knows their problems and challenges is more likely to represent their interest than a male candidate. It is likely that this difference in mindset has a lot to do with the number of women in the two countries’ parliaments.
It has also been mentioned that female organizations and parties in Indonesia are unable to successfully build networks and collaborate to promote women’s rights. In Finland, however, according to Hoodfar and Tajal (92), “female MPs have often cooperated across party lines on women’s issues as opposed to rigidly adhering to party platforms”. Collaboration and putting aside party politics is indeed something that is required to learn to work towards a common goal. Compared with the United Kingdom, where party quotas were introduced unsuccessfully, the Finnish example is something that should be reviewed by all country and party leaders who would like to achieve a higher level of equality and diversity.
Comparison Of Internal and External Conditions: Finland and Indonesia
Based on the above review of the two countries’ political, economic, and social sphere, some clear differences can be identified that are likely to have a strong impact on women’s participation in politics. The Western-type country of Finland has long standing democratic traditions, and a culture that enabled women’s advocacy groups to operate in the country. The participation of women in education and workforce in Finland is close to equal to men’s. There is a democratic system that enables an undisturbed flow of media communication from diverse groups. However, one of the most significant advantages of Finland related to gender representation is that women in the country gained the right to vote at the same time as men. This tradition within the parliamentary system enabled the political decision-makers of the country to plan ahead and include women’s issues in discussions. Indeed, as women were allowed to vote from the beginning of the electoral system, they gained the same level of authority and representation as men. Women were never considered politically inferior, and unable to make informed decisions related to the local and national government. The role of gender bias and customs, therefore, is found to have a great relevance to gender equality in politics. One of the most interesting features of Finland’s parliamentary system is that there was no need for policies introducing quotas for women. Indeed, it seems like the democratic nature of the country has a great impact on women’s participation in voting and politics. Therefore, the main features of the Finnish political and social system that have a positive impact on women’s participation in politics are: strong tradition of democracy, freedom of speech enabling women’s groups to communicate their ideas, the lack of negative gender bias, and the fact that women gained the right to vote at the same time as men.
In contrast, Indonesia’s society was found to be patriarchal, and women’s participation in education and employment was low. The lack of democratic traditions, the presence of strong gender bias, and the lack of economic power assigned to female members of the society hindered women’s opportunities to start a political career. The fundamentalist religious regime’s ideology about women’s roles is still so embedded in the society that views are hard to change. Indeed, in the cultural East, the most important factor that affects equality of sexes lies in religion, traditions, and customs. As women are still traditionally considered to be housewives, and their participation in secondary and tertiary education is extremely low, there are simply not enough women educated and empowered enough to take part in politics. As in the country the minimum requirement to run for elections is a high school diploma, and only 35 percent of high school students were female in 1985, when most women who would now be taking part in politics, it is clear that women in Indonesia have long been disadvantaged and treated as inferior.
Trends Identified: Summary
The above comparison of the two countries, and the research of global and national trends has resulted in some important findings, previously serving as the ideological foundation of the current study. The first trend and correlation identified is that the longer a country’s democratic traditions have been held, the more likely the nation is to embrace gender equality in politics. The correlation was clearly demonstrated through the examples of the two countries, and the review of political systems. The second trend that is important for researchers looking for frameworks to increase women’s participation in politics is that the sooner women gained the right to vote, the more embedded feminine values and thoughts would be in the political system and discourse. In Finland, women have been voting for the same time as men, and have always enjoyed equal political rights. Therefore, the nation’s openness to feminist ideas and thoughts represented by women’s rights’ groups have had a positive impact on empowering female members of the society. It has also been found that gender bias and the lack of them had an impact on women’s political participation. The more restricted women’s social roles are in the country the less social mobility they will have. This translates to a lower access to education, and reduced opportunities for females. This impact was clearly demonstrated in the Indonesian case, where the participation of women in workforce and tertiary education is still extremely low. Without having the same number of qualified and ambitious prospects from each gender group, equality can never be achieved. Finally, women’s internalization of gender bias was found to have negatively impacting their political participation.
The Way Forward
One of the most debated political approaches that are designed to increase women’s participation in politics is the quota system. Several authors have analyzed the effectiveness of these state interventions, and most of them found that they are less effective than strategies that focus on the social empowerment of women and communication that is related to gender equality. The below overview of strategies will indicate that quotas applied to party and state politics are less effective than strategies that focus on changing common perceptions about gender roles. Hoodfar and Tajali found that party quotas did not work in the United Kingdom, and given that the country has strong democratic traditions, the reason is somewhat a mystery. The main reasons why the system did not work – according to the author – lie in the political and electoral system off the country. While women are encouraged to stand for election, they have less chance of getting seats than men, due to systematic restrictions and limits. Therefore, it is clear that in order to achieve a higher female representation in democratic countries, setting quotas is not enough. The entire electoral system needs to be revised to identify whether or not it disadvantages women. Likewise, the 2005 United Nations document highlights the disadvantages of introducing quotas. As the document (Bari, 7) confirms: “over the last half of the 20th Century, many countries have instituted gender quotas either voluntarily or through legislation”. While the authors state that gender quotas are effective to tackle women’s exclusion from politics, they do not consider them effective in increasing female participation in politics. The authors quoted by the report all agree that while introducing quotas is a part of an effective strategy, a comprehensive plan should include communication campaigns, education system changes, and programs that focus on women’s empowerment. As the report states: “The gender quotas, therefore, need to be linked with the social and economic redistributive justice in the society”. An important point is made above: women who become elected to become a member of the parliament need to have the correct level of ability to represent women who make up 50 percent of the population. If elected women are required to follow mainstream party politics, they will not create benefits for the millions of voters who would like greater gender equality.
Dahlerup researched the impact of quotas on gender equality, and found that structural barriers in the electoral and political system reduce the positive outcome of these strategies.
Another possible strategy that could help countries increase women’s participation in politics is not based on government intervention, but empowering diverse groups to create a meaningful discourse about women’s rights, issues, and potential policy initiatives. As it has been seen in the Finnish country analysis, women across the political scale of the country built successful networks of collaboration, and this helped gain more power and insight. The UN document mentions that women who are able to build successful collaboration with non-governmental organizations, focus on common goals, and try to understand female voters’ priorities are more likely to become successful in politics. This also indicates that in order for women to achieve greater political representation, there is a need for using collaborative strategies.
A recent study by the European Parliament found that changing common attitudes towards gender roles, through the media is one of the most effective methods for empowering women, making women in politics more generally accepted, and promoting gender equality. While the above highlighted strategy seems to have several benefits above quotas that are applied from the outside, the authors of the white paper emphasize that there is a need for a carefully planned communication strategy. This means that the strategy’s execution needs to rely on a full understanding of the audience, the bias and beliefs of the people addressed.
The recommendations of the United Nations’ 2005 document include creating incentives for countries that make an effort to narrow the gender gap in politics, affirmative measures to empower women, and research focused on measuring the success of various state and community interventions.
The above review of global and national trends of gender equality in politics has confirmed the author’s initial assumption that culture and traditions had a strong impact on women’s representation. That stated, imposing quotas is not found to be the most feasible option to promote gender equality. As the United Nations’ and European Parliament’s documents confirmed, a comprehensive approach is needed that is based on clear communication of democratic values, and empowering women. Setting a quota for political parties alone has been proven to be ineffective in the United Kingdom, due to the imperfections of the electoral system. Further, simply achieving quota targets would not necessarily translate to increased political representation of female voters, as there are no guarantees that female women in the parliament would be able to carry out gender-specific agendas. As the Finnish example clearly demonstrated, there is a need for a complete change of social and political discourse, as well as an advanced media strategy that does not reinforce gender bias. In countries where social roles of women have been restricted for a long time, like in the cultural East, this approach will be more challenging than in countries with strong democratic traditions. Still, gender equality translates to social justice, therefore, politicians should do everything possible to achieve it.
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