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Gender Quotas and Women's Substantive Representation: Lessons from Argentina
Unformatted Document Text:  11 that the quota led to greater attention to “children and adolescence, penal laws, sexual assault laws, and laws on maternity leave and pregnancy” 16 and a deputy pointed to issues such as “sexual education, surgical methods of contraception [tubiligation and vasectomy], emergency contraception, and others.” 17 Outside of the congress, activist women also noted the agenda change in the congress. 18 Congressional and non-congressional interviewees did stress, however, the difference between discussion and outcome: several interviewees observed that, while female legislators‟ introduction of such topics signaled an important advance for Argentine women, agenda change did not automatically translate into policy change. 19 These comments highlight the importance of recognizing substantive representation as process as well as outcome: a socialist legislator stressed that, given the previous and longstanding marginalization of women‟s issues from Argentine politics, having contraception or abortion discussed at all signified a step forward. 20 Likewise, her colleague explained that “there are certain themes that, if it weren‟t for the quota law, would not have entered public debate with such richness.” 21 Bill introduction data supports politicians‟ and observers‟ perceptions that female legislators are more likely to put women‟s issues on the legislative agenda. We analyzed patterns of bill introduction in four areas that firmly fall within the classification of “women‟s issues”: promoting gender quotas, penalizing sexual harassment, combating violence against women, and protecting and expanding reproductive health and rights. Introducing these women‟s rights bills is consistent with substantive representation as process, wherein legislators take action on behalf of some or many women constituents. In examining all bills introduced in these areas over a nineteen year period (1989-2007), we found that the vast majority were introduced by women (see Figure 1). Women authored 79 percent of the bills on gender quotas, a category that includes the application of quotas to other bodies, such as the judiciary or the executive, as well as bills to increase the existing congressional quota from thirty to fifty percent. In the area of reproductive rights, women introduced 80 percent of the bills to legalize abortion and to expand access to contraception, and to improve reproductive health through education and access. In the area of violence against women, a category that includes all bills to enhance women‟s protection from violence, female legislators sponsored 69 percent of all bills. Women also authored 73 percent of bills aimed at combating sexual harassment. Figure 1 here While much of the existing literature on women and politics finds a positive correlation between gender activism and leftist parties, this finding does not appear in Argentina, where parties are not organized around a Left-Right cleavage (Coppedge 1998). Indeed, the two traditional parties—the Peronists and the Radicals—contain progressive and conservative segments. Our data show that, in the Argentine Congress, partisan identification does not determine legislators‟ actions. Peronist legislators—male and female—introduced the largest proportion of bills across the four policy areas (see Table 1). This dominance does not mean that Peronist legislators care more about women‟s issues; rather, it reflects the Peronists‟ greater proportion of seats in the Argentine congress in the period under study. Peronists introduced between 45 and 56 percent of bills in the four areas; legislators from the Radical party (the main opposition) introduced the second largest proportion of bills, followed by legislators from the smaller parties. In the category of reproductive rights, the difference between Peronists and Radicals decreased, with

Authors: Franceschet, Susan. and Piscopo, Jennifer.
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11
that the quota led to greater attention to “children and adolescence, penal laws, sexual assault
laws, and laws on maternity leave and pregnancy”
16
and a deputy pointed to issues such as
“sexual education, surgical methods of contraception [tubiligation and vasectomy], emergency
contraception, and others.”
17
Outside of the congress, activist women also noted the agenda
change in the congress.
18
Congressional and non-congressional interviewees did stress,
however, the difference between discussion and outcome: several interviewees observed that,
while female legislators‟ introduction of such topics signaled an important advance for Argentine
women, agenda change did not automatically translate into policy change.
19
These comments
highlight the importance of recognizing substantive representation as process as well as outcome:
a socialist legislator stressed that, given the previous and longstanding marginalization of
women‟s issues from Argentine politics, having contraception or abortion discussed at all
signified a step forward.
20
Likewise, her colleague explained that “there are certain themes that,
if it weren‟t for the quota law, would not have entered public debate with such richness.”
21

Bill introduction data supports politicians‟ and observers‟ perceptions that female legislators are
more likely to put women‟s issues on the legislative agenda. We analyzed patterns of bill
introduction in four areas that firmly fall within the classification of “women‟s issues”:
promoting gender quotas, penalizing sexual harassment, combating violence against women, and
protecting and expanding reproductive health and rights.
Introducing these women‟s rights bills
is consistent with substantive representation as process, wherein legislators take action on behalf
of some or many women constituents.

In examining all bills introduced in these areas over a nineteen year period (1989-2007), we
found that the vast majority were introduced by women (see Figure 1). Women authored 79
percent of the bills on gender quotas, a category that includes the application of quotas to other
bodies, such as the judiciary or the executive, as well as bills to increase the existing
congressional quota from thirty to fifty percent. In the area of reproductive rights, women
introduced 80 percent of the bills to legalize abortion and to expand access to contraception, and
to improve reproductive health through education and access. In the area of violence against
women, a category that includes all bills to enhance women‟s protection from violence, female
legislators sponsored 69 percent of all bills. Women also authored 73 percent of bills aimed at
combating sexual harassment.
Figure 1 here

While much of the existing literature on women and politics finds a positive correlation between
gender activism and leftist parties, this finding does not appear in Argentina, where parties are
not organized around a Left-Right cleavage (Coppedge 1998). Indeed, the two traditional
parties—the Peronists and the Radicals—contain progressive and conservative segments. Our
data show that, in the Argentine Congress, partisan identification does not determine legislators‟
actions. Peronist legislators—male and female—introduced the largest proportion of bills across
the four policy areas (see Table 1). This dominance does not mean that Peronist legislators care
more about women‟s issues; rather, it reflects the Peronists‟ greater proportion of seats in the
Argentine congress in the period under study. Peronists introduced between 45 and 56 percent of
bills in the four areas; legislators from the Radical party (the main opposition) introduced the
second largest proportion of bills, followed by legislators from the smaller parties. In the
category of reproductive rights, the difference between Peronists and Radicals decreased, with


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