The Venezolana Perspective: For More Women in Venezuelan Politics

Although Venezuela has very strong women in politics, there are many more who are excluded. We need to work for a female perspective in the Venezuelan political process.

Photo: Angy Abbruzzese // @recortaymueve

Having more women calling the shots in Venezuelan politics may be the way to move faster towards a democratic transition. You shouldn’t expect different results if you always do the same thing, so why not have more women at the table when it comes to the big issues for Venezuela? 

Regarding this topic, Venezuela is an atypical case in the region: the issues discussed about women in politics in other countries include quota or parity laws, campaign financing, leadership training and equitable media coverage; in Venezuela, they get lost (or lose priority) in the context of the most complex humanitarian crisis the region has experienced. However, the crisis can also be an opportunity to create better conditions for women’s political participation, now and in the future.

When thinking about Venezuelan women in politics, we should all understand that…

  1.     We need more women in Venezuelan politics, and a gender perspective in all decisions;
  2.     We need to strengthen Venezuela’s legislative framework to facilitate the previous point, and;
  3.     We must have women at the table where decisions are made.

Let me go quickly over these points.

We need more women in Venezuelan politics. More numbers. And a gender perspective in policy decisions, especially as we face a democratic transition. We know that women comprise 50% of the population and 50% of the electorate, and if regional patterns are consistent (which they generally are), they should be 50% of the main political parties in the country. That’s 50-50-50. However, we have one female leader of a political party and only 19% female representation in the National Assembly.

Granted, Latin America is the second region in the world after the Nordic countries with the highest representation of women in Parliament (with around 30%), but Venezuela is far from that critical mass most countries in the region have achieved.

Additionally, we need to make sure women’s issues are mainstreamed in all decisions, in all discussions. A quick review of Plan País reveals how little attention has been paid to women’s issues (per sector). So we need more women. We need their views.

And we need to strengthen Venezuela’s legislative framework to facilitate female participation. Of course Venezuelans need to work on their patterns of socialization, working against stereotypes, on improving education and teaching equality and human rights as the basis of structural changes, but institutions are key and we can start paving the way for women’s representation learning from other Latin American countries.

We must reinforce Venezuela’s legislative frameworks. We need to learn from other countries, and design a parity law that can increase female representation for public office.

Countries of the region have been trying quotas for years as a temporary affirmative action measure, usually at 30%. The Interamerican Commission of Human Rights’ stance on quotas also supports their implementation, and research shows that quotas work. Moreover, a few selected countries (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua and, more recently, Chile) have even adopted parity measures as a permanent feature of their legislation, with the specific purpose of ensuring female representation as part of the political candidates’ lists.  

Only three countries in the region don’t exercise a quota: Venezuela, Guatemala and Uruguay.

The first quota measure in Venezuela dates back to 1998, specifically Article 144 of the Citizens’ Suffrage and Participation Law, which required political parties to include 30% of women in their lists of candidates.

This 1998 quota Article was declared unconstitutional by the National Electoral Council and repealed by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice in a ruling dated May 15th, 2000, on the basis of a supposed contradiction with the 1999 Constitution that prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, creed or social status.

In 2005, the CNE issued an administrative measure and approved a 50% parity for men and women. The problem is that, since it’s just an administrative measure, its application depends on the CNE’s whims, and it carried very limited effectivenessthe CNE allowed parties to place women in losing districts, or as substitutes in the lists, so their representation was actually very limited. 

We must reinforce Venezuela’s legislative frameworks. We need to learn from other countries, and design a parity law that can increase female representation for public office.

This means that we need to ask more from Venezuela’s democratic leaders. We must demand women at the table where decisions are made. It matters in terms of numbers (symbolic representation) and in terms of content (ensuring their perspectives, views, and opinions are also considered); we see media coverage of international missions, we go to meetings and discussions in the main cities where diaspora Venezuelans and political exiles are giving their all to help a transition to democracy. We salute and respect that. However, the ones calling the shots are usually men, and that’s not right; we need more women in decision-making spaces, contributing with their views, improving decisions. Especially in Venezuela’s road to democracy.

Moreover, their participation can be instrumental to the success and sustainability of lasting peace and democracy. Various studies have shown that, when women are included in peace processes, the resulting agreement is 20% likelier to last at least two years, and when women are included in the negotiation process itself, the agreement is 35% more likely to last at least 15 years.

So having women at the table goes beyond morality and fairness, it’s beneficial to peace and democracy. In the long run, we improve the quality of decisions, we achieve a stronger democracy and, as Madeleine Albright so eloquently said, women in power “can be counted on to raise issues that others overlook, to support ideas that others oppose, and to seek an end to abuses that others accept.”

So we all win.


* Views are personal. They do not represent those of the Organization of American States.