Increasing women’s political representation and participation in Cambodia through the implementation of gender quotas
The overarching objective of this paper is to provide recommendations for the implementation of gender quotas in Cambodia. The paper first considers why it is important to achieve gender equality in politics, and asks eight individuals, who are working in Cambodia to promote the role of women in politics, why they think it is necessary for women to be represented in politics. The most common response is that women comprise 52 percent of the Cambodian population and this should be mirrored in the gender composition of the National Assembly, the Senate and Commune Councils. In addition, women’s decisions are highly-valued, as it is believed they will pay more attention to issues affecting their community and other women. It was also felt that women are integral to the future development of Cambodia, and women in decision-making roles can act as role models, encouraging others to participate in politics.
When it comes to gender equality, Cambodia’s legislation and policies are fairly progressive, but there is a big gap between policy and practice, with women comprising 20 percent of the National Assembly, 15 percent of the Senate and just under 18 percent of Commune Councils. The paper found that although women remain underrepresented in Cambodian politics, there has been a distinct improvement in the number of women participating in politics since 1993, and they are increasingly active in voicing concerns relating to issues affecting them and their communities. However, there are a range of obstacles which prevent women from participating in politics in Cambodia, including economic barriers, social and cultural restrictions, and the nature of the country’s political environment can deter women from wanting to become involved in politics.
Gender quotas are considered to be an effective way of increasing the number of female representatives in politics. Quotas have now been implemented in more than 100 countries, with impressive results: in countries with gender quotas, female representation, on average, stands at 22 percent, in contrast with countries with no gender quota, where female representation stands at just 13 percent. More specifically, in 2011, UN Women reported that 28 countries have reached or exceeded the 30 percent critical mass mark for women in parliament, and at least 23 of the 28 countries have used some form of quota to achieve that number.
In Cambodia, there is overwhelming support for gender quotas from local NGOs who see the implementation of such quotas as a vital mechanism to redress gender discrimination in politics. However, there is less support from political parties. FUNCINPEC are the only party who say they are implementing a 30 percent quota on their candidate lists prior to the July 2013 National Assembly Elections, however, there is no written policy on this. The other main parties, CPP, CNRP and LfDP maintain that they support women in politics, but see gender quotas as just one way of increasing women’s representation. In addition, there are concerns that gender quotas are un-Constitutional, as they have been interpreted as discriminating against men.
Yet there are ways in which quotas could be implemented in Cambodia to avoid such criticisms. Fundamentally, it is recommended that quotas should be gender-neutral so they cannot be misconstrued as discriminating against men or women. Further recommendations for the implementation of gender quotas in Cambodia include:
- Recommendation One: Legislated Candidate Quotas
- Recommendation Two: Legislated Zipper System
- Recommendation Three: Sanctions for Non-Compliance
- Recommendation Four: Reserved Seats in the Senate
- Recommendation Five: Not a ‘Quota’, but a ‘Special Measure’
- Recommendation Six: Innovative Lobbying by Local NGOs
- Recommendation Seven: Financial Support for Women in Politics
- Recommendation Eight: Closer Monitoring and Dissemination of the Number of Women in Politics
- Recommendation Nine: Broader Awareness-raising on the Importance of Women in Politics
- Recommendation Ten: Continue with Capacity Development