Kosovo Highlights Limited Impact of Mandatory Quotas for Women in Government By Rrezart Dema and Aldisa Morina
Women political participation is a global problem. Democratic societies have made advances, but women remain largely underrepresented in government. As documented by the United Nations, only 22.8 percent of all people in legislatures around the world are women. This piece will focus on the underrepresentation of women in Kosovo and examine effectiveness of related laws intended to address this. Law has had only a limited effect in addressing this problem thus far.
Mandatory quotas for women in government is one tool designed to strengthen the political participation of women, but according to many scholars they have not substantially changed political practices. In 2000, for example, Kosovo adopted legislated quotas of 30 percent at both the local and national levels. These quotas apply to seats in parliament and party lists. This law was introduced by the UN mission, UNMIK, and was largely praised by women, but criticized by the European Union and male MPs of Kosovo.
Mandatory quotas have only partially affected Kosovo women politicians. For example, women comprised 32.5 percent of the total of MPs in the last legislature of Kosovo, but in the last government of the country only 8 percent of the total were women. Other countries in Europe, such as Bulgaria and Romania, haveno legislated quotas, yet women are more represented in government than parliament.
In 2015 Kosovo adopted the “Law on Gender Equality” (LGE) which seeks to “guarantee, protect and promote equality between genders.” Unequal gender representation is defined here as when representation of one gender is less than 50 percent at any level of political and public decision-making bodies. Mandatory quotas do not comply with this law as they only require 30 percent of candidates in party lists to be from the less represented gender.
A report from Kosovo Gender Studies (KSG) found that neither central nor local institutions are respecting the LGE. For example, in 2015 women represented 40.6 of the employees in the office of the PM and ministries. At the municipal level only 28 percent of the total were females. Furthermore, women held only 5.2 percent of the senior positions in the central level (3 out of 58) and 10.1 percent in the municipal level (32 of 315). In 14 municipalities women did not hold any leadership positions at all.
Different factors seem to obstruct women political participation in Kosovo and lower the importance of legal instruments, such as mandatory quotas and the LGE. According to a recent comparative study of women representation in politics in Southern Europe, mandatory quotas are largely affected by the cultural and historical past of a country. The report from the KSG identified mentality and party clientelism as factors that hinder the role of women in politics. Kosovar society is characterized by patriarchal elements that undermine the inclusion of women in politics. Men dominate all of the important political parties in Kosovo.
Other common obstacles mentioned mentioned by UN are lack of financial resources, greater family responsibilities and the emergence of elites who are generally controlled by men. According to a Labor Force Survey conducted in 2015, only 11.5 percent of the women from the working age were employed while for men the number was 38 percent. Women must be first provided with the necessary environment for them to effectively contribute in politics and such conditions are not contributing to the current situation.
Women are a vital part of every society. The same should apply for their role in politics. Studies have shown that increased women representation in global politics leads to greater economic benefits, greater cooperation along party lines and more sustainable conflict resolution. This positive effect should be clearly applicable in Kosovo too. In such circumstances, every possible effort must be made, including supplementing legal efforts with greater progress in the everyday political and social reality of women in Kosovo. This is a truly important goal if the country aspires to join the ranks of other well-established liberal-democracies.
Rrezart Dema, Teaching and Research Assistant, Universum College, Kosovo
Aldisa Morina is a recent graduate in Political Science at Universum College, Kosovo.