Gender Quotas and Representation – Senegal

Gender Quotas and Representation


Senegal succeeded in passing a “Law on Parity” (Law 2010-11 Act of May 28, 2010), following the passing of an initial piece of parity legislation, prior to the legislative elections of June 3, 2007, and its subsequent invalidation by the Constitutional Court, (Ruling 97-2007 – Case 1/ C/2007), for violation of the Constitution (Article 7). The new Parity Law instituted total parity, between men and women, in all partially or entirely elected institutions, was passed following an amendment of the Constitution voted on November 13 and 26, 2010 respectively by the National Assembly and the Senate. The Amendment included in the Constitution a parity provision between men and women “in all elected terms and all positions granted through elections.”

The major innovation of the Senegalese Law on Parity is its mandatory character. Articles 1 and 2 of Law 2010-11 of May 28, 2010 on absolute parity stipulate: “all lists of candidates shall be alternately composed of persons of both sexes, and when the total number is odd, parity shall apply up to the last even number. All lists of candidates shall comply with this provision or shall be rejected.” President Abdoulaye Wade’s decree 2011-819 of May 19, 2011 regarding the implementation of the Law specifies how this act shall be applied to lists of candidates. The Senegalese Electoral Code in its article LO.145 reiterates the constraint to political parties and coalition of political parties to scrupulously enforce the provisions of the Act on the absolute parity between men and women.

This law was first implemented during the legislative elections of July 1, 2012 during which a high increase in the representation of women was noted. From 22% (33 representatives) for the 2007 – 2012 legislature, the number of women members of the National Assembly increased to 43.3% (64 representatives) for the 2012-2017 legislature. This new experiment was not an easy task for many parties presenting lists of candidates. To avoid having their lists rejected, a number of parties were forced to abandon some of their party barons (generally males) to comply with the law, others who did not have enough charismatic female leaders among their ranks experienced tremendous difficulties to recruit female candidates.

For this reason, the Male/Female parity law continues to be debated in Senegal. For the supporters of absolute parity (generally women’s organizations and female political leaders), this law is conducive to the promotion of Senegalese women and to a more equitable participation of women in electoral competitions and in all decision-making fora, which is a reparation for the political and social injustice sustained by Senegalese women. For the opponents to the absolute parity law, among whom are political leaders like the attorney Elhadji Diouf, (leader of The Workers and People’s Party), religious movements, and some intellectuals, the law is against the cultural and religious values of Senegal, and constitutes a fundamental violation of the principle of equality of all human beings in law and opportunity. They also argue that the Law on Parity is against meritocracy.

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