75% of opinion leaders in Latin America believe that deliberately fomenting gender parity in politics can "strengthen democracy", according to a survey on women's participation in politics carried out by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) from the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010.
Opinion leaders from the public and private sectors in the region, including academics, politicians, businesspeople and social and religious leaders, responded the ECLAC survey. Its results were released this week in commemoration of International Women's Day.
Most of those consulted agreed in general with the goals of gender parity in politics and the most common instruments to promote it, such as affirmative action and "quota laws".
The majority (66%) believes that the rise of women in politics has contributed to "demonstrating women's political capabilities". However, only a relative majority thinks that the presence of women legislators "improves the quality of legislative work" (38% said they were not against or in favor of this assertion, and 15% said they disagreed).
The opinion leaders consulted in the survey almost unanimously agreed that the election of women presidents over the past few years in the region has strongly legitimized the role of women in other decision-making positions.
ECLAC carried out its first survey of this type at the end of 2008. Then, 82% of those consulted said that "it was necessary to adopt legislative measures to attain political parity among men and women". This year, the figure dropped to 74%. Similarly, in 2008, 77% of those polled agreed with "electoral laws that establish quotas to favor the representation of women", while now, only 67% of those consulted believed likewise.
These results indicate decreasing support for quota laws, which are considered useful instruments for advancing gender parity in politics. ECLAC called for new legislative efforts in this area in the region.
For those who promote gender parity and for those democracies in the region that are lagging behind in this regard, the time for affirmative action is now, said the Commission.