The Two Sides to Quota Laws for Female Representation in Latin American Politics

This week’s readings discussed the implications of elections and accountable representation in Latin America, with particular focus on the resurgence of the left and modern gender gaps in the electorate. Specifically, Jana Morgan’s article, “The Latin American Voter”, points out that many women in Latin America will vote for female candidates for “descriptive representation”, believing that female candidates will likely promote and protect female interests in the legislature. For this blog post, I would like to expand an idea quickly mentioned in this week’s readings that relates to increased female representation in the Latin American legislatures: quota laws. Although this is not the main reason for the increase in women in parliament, it is difficult to ignore the rapid improvements made in the region: particularly, there are more female heads of state in South America than in any other continent, and there are five female heads of state in Latin America as of 2014 ( In this blog post, I will present the two sides of the argument for quota laws and the implications that come with them for female representation in the new democratic region’s electorate.


First off, quota laws require a certain portion of the legislature be female. These were put in place with the good intention to ensure that proper representation of both genders occurs in Latin American governments. The UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean demonstrates that “only 14 Latin American and Caribbean nations have gender quota laws to improve women’s participation in elected positions” ( I think this is definitely a good idea, as it is a step forward to show that the region supports shortening the gender gap in representation. However, there are many people who believe that requiring a certain number of the legislature be female inherently undermines the capabilities of women to earn a certain percentage of the legislature on their own. And, according to Morgan’s article, one would certainly expect the increase in female representation to coincide with the new modern gender gap, as low-class women in addition to the new quite noticeable force of professional-level women are consistently voting for female candidates…  so, the argument becomes that there really shouldn’t be quota laws, and it is actually subordinate to “protect” gender representation when women believe they can become candidates and be represented on their own without these legal guarantees.


This view is especially pointed out in Susan Franceschet and Jennifer Piscopo’s article, “Gender Quotas and Women’s Substantive Representation: Lessons in Argentina”: the authors believe that the quotas imply women cannot be politically successful on their own and need formal rules to help. In a region with historical female leaders, like Eva Peron and Isabel Peron in Argentina, Lidia Tijada in Bolivia, and Violeta Chamorro in Nicaragua (and many others), people like Frenceschet and Piscopo see these quota laws almost as an insult to the countries where females are 1) gaining empowerment through new opportunities in the work place and in the economy and 2) female leadership with specific individuals like Eva Peron and broader groups the Mothers of the Plaza del Mayo are only on the rise.


In the end, I believe that quota levels do demonstrate good and just intentions by Latin American governments to elevate women professionally in democracy. Nonetheless, they do have an underlying tone of the inherent inferior views towards women that have been unwavering in the history of this region. However, it is still important to note that the Latin American region is fairly new to democracy and the idea of complete perfection with trying to create an equal and fair society is simply not realistic: there are going to be policies that people to not agree with, but I believe that quota laws are at least a movement towards closing the gender gap in these early stages of democracy, which is better than nothing. Yet, I am not saying that women cannot earn these political positions without formal help… I am only making a statement that appreciates the attempt to support the elevation of women in the Latin American electorate.