The argument for gender quotas – made by women’s rights activists across the globe has come about in response to women’s continued collective marginalization from political power. According to data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union (2005), the global average for women’s parliamentary representation is 18 percent, with high rates in the Nordic countries, Rwanda, and Argentina, and low rates in the Arab region and Iran.
In the vast majority of countries, political power – legislative, juridicial, and executive rests in the hands of men. In recent decades, therefore, the worldwide growth of a population of educated, employed, mobile, and politically aware women, combined with the diffusion of the UN-sponsored global women’s rights agenda, has increased calls for women’s political participation and representation. One of the mechanisms to realize this objective is the gender quota. Feminist groups around the world favor the implementation of the gender quota – which may come in the form of a constitutional quota, an electoral quota, or a political party quota – but it remains both controversial and elusive, especially in the Middle East.
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