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French Parliament Welcomes Record Number of Women


France’s most recent parliamentary vote placed the highest number of women ever into the country’s National Assembly. Prior to the vote, the highest number of female elected parliamentarians was 155; after the most recent election, that number climbed to 223. This means that women compose approximately 38.6% of the French National Assembly, a statistic that demonstrates the long way they’ve come since their 12.3% back in 2002.

President Emmanuel Macron and his political party, Republic on the Move (La République en Marche or LREM), were major factors in the effort to get more women into Parliament. The party issued a gender-balanced candidate list, which is uncommon for political parties in the country. In fact, most parties continue to put more men on the ballot than women in spite of laws that oppose such behavior. One such law imposes fines on a party when women make up less than 49% of the names on the party’s candidate list. Another law restricts parliamentarians from simultaneously serving as mayors and governors, which opens more political opportunities up to women.

Disturbingly, many parties devote time to finding loopholes to these laws. For instance, it is common practice for political parties to run their female candidates in districts where they are most likely to lose. That way, the party retains a reputation for caring about gender equality without having to see women actually represented in Parliament.

However, Macron’s LREM is no typical political party. As a woman who won in her district in Southeastern France, Brune Poirson said, “[Macron’s] En Marche … proactively decided to give winning seats to women. This is a really bold move.” The Macron Administration never wavered in its “bold” choice. Poirson added, “[Macron]… said: this is your responsibility as well – we need you. It was very powerful, and it really worked.”

This influx of women gives way for the government to bring new, comprehensive laws to the forefront. “The arrival of female lawmakers and other new parliamentarians, which will reinvigorate the National Assembly, could curtail the power of the old guard and allow for the emergence of innovative ideas in several areas of political life,” said specialist in gender and politics Marianne Sineau.

Moreover, the new balance of gender in the National Assembly could combat some deeply ingrained misogynistic tendencies. For instance, the vice president of the National Assembly Denis Baupin resigned last year after allegations of sexual harassment. Laurianne Rossi, a former Senator’s assistant and current politician representing a district near Paris, has said, “There is still a long way to go before we get real equality… [but] the arrival of so many more women at the National Assembly will really help.”

Talking about the outcome of the election, Catherine Barbaroux, the LREM’s acting president, added, “For the first time under the [postwar] Fifth Republic, the National Assembly will be deeply renewed – more diverse, younger. But above all, allow me to rejoice, because this is a historic event for the representation of women in the National Assembly.”

As the distribution of power between men and women in government evens out, government representation becomes fairer and addresses issues that both men and women face. With France inching towards equal representation, it will be very exciting to see what happens next.

Featured Image by Lorie Shaull on Flickr

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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