The issue of gender equality in political representation has been a subject of global concern. While some countries have made significant strides in this area, the overall pace of progress remains slow. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of female representation in parliaments worldwide, with a focus on countries that are leading the way, those that are lagging, and the challenges that lie ahead.
In a recent development, India’s upper house of Parliament has passed legislation to reserve 33% of seats in the lower house and state assemblies for women. This is a significant move, considering that only 13% of India’s 788 Members of Parliament (MPs) are women. However, this legislation will not be implemented in the upcoming general elections and is expected to come into effect in 2029.
According to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), only about one in four lawmakers in national parliaments worldwide are women. The IPU warns that at the current rate of progress, it will take more than 80 years to achieve gender parity in parliaments. As of March, every functioning parliament in the world had at least one female member for the first time in history.
In 2022, 47 countries held elections, and seven of these—Costa Rica, Sweden, Senegal, Denmark, Slovenia, Australia, and Barbados—saw women occupying at least 40% of parliamentary seats. Australia’s Senate made history with women winning 56.6% of seats, the highest share in any upper chamber globally. However, the overall share of seats held by women increased by just 0.4 percentage points to 26.5%, marking the slowest growth in six years.
Rwanda stands out with women holding more than 60% of parliamentary seats. Other countries where women outnumber men in parliament include Cuba (56%) and Nicaragua (52%). New Zealand, Mexico, Andorra, and the United Arab Emirates have achieved gender parity in their legislative bodies.
Several countries have made significant progress in recent years, including Dominica, Chad, Mali, and Uzbekistan. Sierra Leone has introduced a new gender empowerment law that mandates women to make up at least 30% of parliament and the cabinet after the upcoming elections in June.
Countries like Yemen, Vanuatu, Nigeria, Qatar, and Iran have less than 10% female representation in their parliaments. Sri Lanka, despite having the world’s first female prime minister in 1960, has had only about 5.3% of its parliamentary seats occupied by women for the last 25 years.
Algeria and Tunisia have seen a decline in female representation due to changes in their electoral systems. In Algeria, the share of women in parliament fell from 26% to 8% following changes to its quota system. Tunisia is also expected to see a decrease in the number of female lawmakers due to recent changes in its electoral system.
The global progress in increasing female representation in parliaments is slow and uneven. While some countries have made significant strides, others are lagging or even regressing. Legislative measures, like the one recently passed in India, can play a crucial role in accelerating progress. However, the implementation of such measures and the eradication of systemic barriers are essential for achieving gender parity in political representation.