Women's Representation Provisions in Electoral Laws. An Assessment of Chilean Recent Electoral Reform - Núm. 2, Febrero 2018 - Revista Latin American Legal Studies - Libros y Revistas - VLEX 774581985

Women's Representation Provisions in Electoral Laws. An Assessment of Chilean Recent Electoral Reform

AutorConstanza Toro
CargoComité Constitucional de la Cámara de Diputados, Valparaíso, Chile
Constanza toro
“We have had the morality of submission, and the
morality of chivalry and generosity; the time is now come for
the morality of justice”
John Stuart Mill, “The Subjection of Women” (1869)
The article addresses the issue of women’s representation in
electoral legislation, focusing on the latest amendments of Chi-
lean electoral laws. It rst examines the conceptual relationship
between representative democracy and equality, distinguishing
between formal and substantive equality and representation, in
order to fully understand the potential impact of electoral laws
on women’s representation. A comparative perspective is then
offered, showing the current representation of women in Par-
liaments and reviewing the connection with different features of
electoral systems. In this context, gender quotas are analysed as
one of the main mechanisms that have been used to increase wo-
men representation. Finally, the recent amendments of Chilean
electoral law on this issue are presented, in order to anticipate
what we can expect for women’s representation in the years to
Keywords: Chile, electoral law, Parliament, women, gender, equality, representation, quotas.
The main objective of an electoral system should be to adequately represent
the interest of its citizens. This adequacy can have several dimensions, including a
territorial one, ideological, etc. Gender representation can be considered among one
*1 Comité Constitucional de la Cámara de Diputados, Valparaíso, Chile (constanza.toro@gmail.
com). Article received on September 19, 2017 and accepted for publication on November 14, 2017.
Constanza Toro
of these dimensions and during the last decades it has increasingly gain attention due
to the serious under representation women have had in most Parliaments all over the
world, even though they represent half of the population.1 Our hypothesis is that
electoral laws are key elements towards a gender balanced political representation
and, in the case of Chile, the latest reforms in this arena can be interpreted as a pro-
mising sign for greater female presence in the future Congress.
To approach this issue, I will start by briey framing the conceptualization of
representative democracy and its connections with the concept equality. The next
section will review women representation from a comparative perspective, showing
the current situation of women in Parliaments, to then assess the impact of different
electoral systems. Then, one of the most recurrent measures to improve women re-
presentation will be reviewed: gender quotas.
The previous theoretical analysis will be the basis to analyse the case of Chile
and its most recent electoral reforms. I will present the current situation of women
in Chilean parliament and how did the latest reform approached this issue, in order
to make a conjecture of what can we expect for future elections. Finally, the conclu-
sion reinforces the importance of a greater women representation -and therefore
the potential impact of gender quotas-, but also underlines that isolated measures
are not enough to guarantee this goal. For the Chilean case, we conrm our hypo-
thesis regarding the likelihood of a positive impact for future female membership on
the Congress. However, this expectation should be mitigated by acknowledging that
some of the expected effects might take some time and will still face some resistance
before fully transform the political scenery.
Our common notion of representative democracy is based on the power of ci-
tizens to select their representatives so that they can make the decisions for their cons-
tituencies, resting on a free and fair system of elections to select those who are going
to act as representatives. This simple model, however, hides several tensions between
the concept of democracy and representation. We need to account for a much more
complex mechanism of representation if we really want to satisfy a robust standard
of political legitimacy.
One of these tensions must deal with the inuence of structural inequalities
as barriers to the concept of equality and the monitoring process that lies on the
foundations of representation. In this sense, structural inequalities challenge the con-
ventional view over representation in terms that “those whom they disadvantage
often cannot, by virtue of their position in the hierarchies structural inequalities de-
ne, authorize representatives and/or hold them to account”.2 Structural inequalities
can therefore translate into either formal or informal exclusion from participation in
1 According to UN Population Division, women population worldwide reached a 49.55% in 2009.
Hayward (2009)
, p. 113.

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