The CDEG received with interest this recommendation of the Parliamentary Assembly in line with its concerns on balanced participation of women and men in political and public life.
As regards the measures proposed by the Assembly on the reform of the electoral system, the CDEG informs the Assembly that a study has been prepared on the two monitoring cycles on the implementation of Recommendation Rec(2003)3 in 2005 and 2008. The results of the study “Parity democracy: a far cry from reality”Note showed that the percentage of elected women increased from 21.1% in 2005 to 21.7% in 2008 and that in countries having established quotas rules/regulations, the percentage of elected women was 21.7% in 2005 and 27.1% in 2008.
Apart from the quotas imposed by law, quota regulations for electoral lists put forward by political parties in 11 member states showed that the average percentage of elected women was 25.7% in 2005 and 28.4 % in 2008, meaning an increase of 2.7%.
Moreover, the data collected in 2005 and 2008 relating to the impact of electoral systems on political participation of women, seems to indicate that systems of proportional representation, the most frequently used in European countries, are the most favourable to the balanced participation of women and men.
However, the study underlines that the more detailed aspects of electoral systems and gender quotas, including the minimum standards adopted, the ranking order in lists of candidates and the sanctions for non‑compliance, the adoption date of laws and rules, the fact that quotas are applied by one party or several and other factors also constitute a list of variables which should need further analysis.
It can be concluded from this study that the increase in women’s political participation, even if it is evident, is still limited. It shows that obstacles to such participation can be related to electoral systems, but also to the functioning of political life and to its rites and rhythms, that still follow a dominant male pattern of social organisation; they can also be related to the unwritten, traditional rules according to which political parties function. Finally, the deeper rooted obstacles are linked to educational, social and cultural factors that still tend to privilege the public/political domain as being a mainly male domain.
Consequently, the CDEG shares the opinion of the Assembly that legal and/or regulatory changes could not alone contribute to the balanced participation of women and men in political and public life and in decision making. It bases its opinion on the conclusions of its study and recommends, inter alia, to address concretely:
With regard to the adoption of positive action (a terminology mainly used in Council of Europe documents) or of temporary special measures (as used in the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, to which all Council of Europe member states are parties), this may be a legitimate tool to accelerate the process of building equality in access to decision-making bodies in political and public life.
The issue related to positive action and gender stereotypes has been examined in Baku, on 24‑25 May 2010, under the two sub-themes of the ministerial conference on equality between women and men. The discussion has resulted in a number of proposals for action to be implemented with the relevant bodies within the CDEG’s future activity programme.
Concerning the drafting of a new Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, the CDEG recalls its position presented in former opinions, i.e. there are Council of Europe instruments that already offer a legal framework for combating all forms of discrimination against women and propose standards and mechanisms for achieving equality between women and men. This includes Protocol No. 12 to the Convention (general prohibition of discrimination). A first step for member states would be to implement concretely these standards and set up the relevant mechanisms for their implementation. The CDEG reserves the possibility to further examine the issue of drafting a new protocol in co-operation with the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH).