French Political Parties Evade Gender Equality

(WOMENSENEWS)-In French parliamentary elections starting tomorrow, women will be equally represented on the ballot-except in those political parties that can afford to disregard the nation's gender-parity requirement.

Across all parties, women make up about 40 percent of candidates, twice the number that ran in the last parliamentary elections in 1997. But the richer, more well-known major political parties, like the conservative Front National and President Jacques Chirac's party, have only 20 percent women candidates. The Socialists have 36 percent women running for the party. When the two rounds of voting are finished on June 16, election analysts expect that women will have gained few, if any, seats. Currently, 63 of the 555 parliament seats are held by women.

A law passed in 2000 requires that each party have at least 50 percent women candidates in certain races, like municipal elections. In other cases, like the upcoming parliamentary elections, the law does not require parity but instead reduces state subsidies to parties with fewer than 50 percent women candidates.

“They prefer to pay penalties rather than include women,” Marie Jose Grandjacques, leader of Femmes 3000, a group committed to advancing women's roles in politics, told The New York Times.

Of all the European Union nations, France and Italy have the fewest women in their parliaments, with about 10 or 11 percent of seats filled by women, according to the International Parliamentary Union, a grouping of 142 legislatures around the world.

Iceland and Sweden have the highest percentage of women in parliament, around 35 percent and 42 percent respectively. In the United States, women make up about 14 percent of Congress.

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