The Slovenia Times

Equality in Numbers



Women in Slovenia were given right to vote almost 60 years ago. At the same time they were also given the right to participate in elections. But the last parliamentary and local elections proved women are not interested in the male dominated world of politics. In the year 1998 11.9 per cent of women were elected to municipal councils. Last year 13 per cent. And last year a women ran for president for the first time in history! "If we are to go with this speed, we would achieve equal share of women in politics in 147 years," Violeta Neubauer, a member of NGO Coalition to promote equal representation of men and women in public life warns. False Promises Many efforts were made in the past years intended to bring women in public sphere, e.g. Equal Opportunity Act, legally binding quotas for political parties. But none of those give results women want. They are just not interested enough to participate in politics. Why? "Because they are forced out by men. When they are running for elections, they are pushed to the bottom of list of candidates or they are put on the lists in communities where they have no chances of being elected," observes Ms. Neubauer. Coalition thus promoted change of Article 44 of Constitution to insure a legally binding act that would stimulate equal opportunities for men and women in running for government or local office. "We did it like the French. When they changed the Constitution, the number of women councillors rose dramatically," Ms. Neubauer says. But political parties in France still don't run enough women. They have to pay financial fee if they don't (the same pattern would, according to some ideas be in place in Slovenia), but such a punishment only works for small, local parties. Just like a Woman Two women ran for mayoress in Ljubljana last year. Some men claimed they were using their feminine charm to seduce voters. The same was said for Ms. Barbara Brezigar who was the first women in history to run for president of state. The bright red suit, which prevailed in their public appearances, was obviously just too much for the male colleagues. "I don't see seducing as problematic, men do it too," professor of women studies Svetlana Slapšak claims. "They never ask a men how he manages his career and family life, and women are always confronted with that questions first. Why? It's 'a little boys club' as I like to call this psychology. Men always seem to think they are superior enough to dare asking such stupid questions," Ms. Slapšak argues. Are Changes really Necessary? "Yes! Since women's rights are human rights and the majority of population should not be excluded from politics," believes Ms. Slapšak. Whereas another feminist thinks equality and rights on a principle level cannot change a thing. "The lack of women in politics is a symptom of a deeply rotted problem of inequality. We are not equal in society, we bear the double burden of career and housekeeping, and we are underpaid. As long as ideologies, processes of socialisation and the way we raise our offspring don't change, no laws or amendments to the Constitution can help in bringing equality to women," Jana S. Rošker criticises. "But on the other hand, if there are no changes to the mentioned Article 44, all suggestions we might have in the future could be defeated by claiming equality and human rights also provided by Constitution. We've had that experience for ten years now. On several occasions we tried to promote seven various initiatives in Parliament," Violeta Neubauer says. The same holds true for various documents Slovenia has signed and/or ratified, e.g. UN Declaration on Human Rights, UN Convention on Elimination of Discrimination of Women, Peking Declaration etc. None of these documents seem to have any impact on Slovene political life, those who promote changes claim. "The Council of Europe and EU are also inclined to increasing the share of women in politics. Balanced representation of men and women is the basis for democracy, Council of Europe wrote in their report and we are sure Slovenia will have to work harder in this field," Ms Neubauer is optimistic. Discrimination in a Positive Way The year 1942, when women were given passive and active votive rights is almost ancient history. But looking at public sphere today it seems like the time has stopped. Women are virtually nowhere to be seen, members of Coalition claim. That is why we need such affirmative acts like changes to Constitution. On the other hand it is also true, the opposition claims, it is degrading for women to be promoted just because of their gender, not abilities. However, studies from Scandinavia show that women in politics can set a public agenda with new subjects and themes that were neglected before. That means democracy would broaden and all, men and women, could benefit from it. Not because I'm a woman, but because that's the only fair way to play.


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