The presence of women in politics presupposes greater representation and in itself has a didactic character: the more women there are working in politics, the more other women are encouraged to run for public office.
However, less than 15 out of 100 deputies in the Brazilian federal legislature are women.
This wide distortion is repeated in other representative bodies, which contributes to the invisibility of the condition of women, as well as of their demands and interests.
Women’s political participation in Brazil is lower than that of other Latin American countries and the world.
According to the 2017 ranking of women’s participation in parliaments, prepared by UN Women and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), Brazil ranks 154th out of 174 countries analyzed.
On average, in Latin America and the Caribbean, a third of legislators are women, more than double the number registered in the Brazilian legislature. This makes Brazil the country with the fewest women in parliament in South America.
The participation of women in political life faces several challenges.
First of all, their role in the family nucleus, still closely linked to the care of children and the elderly, places them at a disadvantage compared to men.
In addition, the structural machismo of Brazilian society still sees politics as a male field of action.
Finally, there is a clear lack of incentives in parties and in the political system in general for greater inclusion.
Changes in legislation
Some steps have been taken to address these challenges.
Since 1995, several legal rules have been approved and implemented to encourage and guarantee the participation of women in electoral processes and thereby increase their presence in representative positions.
Law 9 100/95 determined that at least one fifth of the candidates of each party or electoral coalition for legislative office should be women.
Two years later, in 1997, the electoral law extended the scope of the previous legislation and stipulated that each party had to present at least 30% of women candidates for legislative office.
However, the lack of sanction for non-compliance has hampered the effectiveness of this rule.
It was only in 2009, after a new change in the legislation, that it was possible to make compliance with this minimum percentage compulsory for female candidates.
Continuing this trend of reforms for greater inclusion of women in politics, the Brazilian Congress passed a law in 2015 that obliges parties to allocate resources from the party fund – the public funding received by the parties – to political campaigns of the parties. women.
However, this law created a formal inequality between men and women, since it established that at least 30% of female candidates would have access to a maximum of 15% of financial resources.
The law was later declared unconstitutional for having hampered gender equity, and it was determined that party funding should be proportional between female and male candidates.
The impact of legislation
Since the legislative changes, the number of women candidates for both legislative and executive positions has increased.
However, this increase has not translated into a proportional increase in the number of women elected, suggesting that many candidates have little real chance in electoral competition.
The most expressive increase in female representation occurred, paradoxically, in the last legislative elections of 2018, when Bolsonaro – a far-right and misogynistic candidate – was elected president.
That year, compared to the 2014 elections, there was a 52.6% increase in women elected to the Chamber of Deputies, from 53 to 77 deputies.
At the sub-national level, in the legislative assemblies, the increase was 41.2%, while in the Senate there was no change and the female representation remained at 13%.
In management positions, the situation is even more uneven.
In the case of state governments, since democratization in the 1990s, in almost all elections only one or two governors have been elected, out of a total of 27 states.
However, the number of candidates for governorships increased from 21 to 31 between the 2014 and 2018 elections. During the same period, the number of candidates for vice-governors increased from 45 to 75.
At the local level, the same pattern is repeated, with a greater increase in the percentage of women candidates than elected officials.
In the last municipal elections, in November 2020, only 16% of political representation positions were won by women, while female candidates represented a third of the total number of candidates.
Although this percentage is a record in the municipal elections, it remains well below the proportion of women in Brazilian society, which represents more than half of the population.
The measures to encourage political participation through legislation show results which, although timid, seem promising, especially with regard to competition for legislative posts.
Although the presence of women in leadership positions is still very low, the legislation has had a positive impact on the number of women running for governors and has spurred a change in strategy of parties, which have a greater number of mixed slates. , although in most cases with the woman as a vice.
Other possible strategies
Despite this progress, it is necessary to continue to increase the participation of women.
This can be done through political parties, with incentives for women to participate in governing bodies; with the occupation of strategic positions which increase its visibility with the electorate; and supporting the candidacies of women to become competitive and have the potential for electoral success.
In addition, gender quotas should be replaced by representation quotas, i.e. reserving parliamentary seats exclusively for women.
It is also essential to encourage the participation of black and indigenous women and to develop policies to sensitize society to the importance of increasing the representation of women in politics.