The emergence of a global political movement agitating for the adoption of gender quotas – what Drude Dahlerup (2005) has described as a “quota fever” – has reinvigorated feminist theorization of representation. The fundamental questions of representation have been posed again: who do elected officials represent; does increased representation improve marginalized groups’ access to decision-making institutions; and under what conditions does increased representation lead to improved policy outcomes for marginal groups? Two sorts of disillusionment have coincided in global political discussions about women and representation. On the one hand, feminists in older democracies despair about the slow progress of women in elected bodies. On the other, in new democracies, feminists are skeptical of the willingness of pro-democracy movements to effectively address the interests of women. A remarkable consensus has been forged between these two groups in favor of new mechanisms to increase women’s representation, most notably the use of some form of gender quota. Debates on quotas have advanced in two distinctive phases thus far. In the first phase, feminists were concerned with justifying the idea that special mechanisms were needed to redress the democratic deficit in representation. Most opponents of quotas do indeed focus on normative liberal objections, whether these relate to the relative privileges of groups over individuals, or the value of equal opportunities, or the relative weight of women’s claims over those of other groups.

Additional Metadata
Persistent URL
Hassim, S. (2010). Perverse consequences? The impact of quotas for women on democratization in Africa. In Political Representation (pp. 211–235). doi:10.1017/CBO9780511813146.010