1. Electoral system and party system and their impact on women
2. History of Women's suffrage
3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and
women in political decision-making
a. Infrastructure responsible for EO
b. Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy
c. Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics
Report from Portugal by our transnational partner
*sources: Employment in Europe 1999 and Schlüsselzahlen zum Bildungswesen
in der Europäischen Union, Amt für amtliche Veröffentlichungen der
Europäischen Gemeinschaft 1997, Luxemburg; European Database - Women
in Decision-Making and data by transnational experts.
|Women in Politics:
|Women's suffrage active:
|Women's suffrage passive:
|1st Women in parliament:
|1st Women in government:
|| 1971 Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo,
Secretary of State of Social Affairs
|1st Ministry on women's issues:
|% women in national Parliament:
|% women in national Government:
||Assembly of the Republic:
230 deputies; 226 elected by party list vote from 22 multi-seat
constituencies, 4 elected by Potuguese abroad.
Direct presidential elections.
||No quota regulation legislation.
||No quota system on party level.
|% women with secondary degree:
|% women with degree in higher education:
|% women in senior management:
|Women's employment rates:
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1. Electoral system and party system
and their impact on women|
The electoral right is defined in the Constitution. There are 4
categories of elections: the President of the Republic, legislative
elections at national level, legislative elections at regional level
for the two autonomous regions existing in Portugal (Azores and Madeira)
and municipal elections. The country is divided in 22 electoral districts
(among which 3 in the autonomous region of Azores and 1 for the autonomous
region of Madeira), 305 municipalities and 4007 "freguesias". The
participation in legislative and municipal elections is limited to
political parties only. For the "freguesias", lists of independent
citizens can participate. The candidates can be presented by a minimum
of 5000 electors.
The electoral system is based in proportional
representation, with closed candidatures. According to the Electoral Law, voters
elect political parties based upon lists of candidates selected and determined
by each political party. The electorate is therefore unable to select a specific
candidate or use a preferential vote. The abstention increased considerably since
the first elections, due in part to the fact the citizens cannot directly elect
their representatives. The system based in proportional representation, usually
more favourable to the participation of women in decision-making, does not in
this case produce positive effects.
The counting of the votes is made
according to the Hondt method, which distributes the posts according to the
number of votes obtained by each political party.
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Although it began several years before, the organized fight for women's
suffrage is deeply attached to the feminist movement dating from 1910,
when the Republic replaced the Monarchy. The women belonging to the "League
of Republican Women" conducted it. Some of its members noticed that the
Administrative Code gave the right to vote in municipal elections to the
heads of families. Therefore, in 1911, Carolina Beatriz Ângelo, doctor,
widow and mother, voted in the elections for the Constitutional Assembly,
on the basis of her position as head of the family, given that the law
omitted to state the sex of the head of the family. She was not only the
first Portuguese who voted, but also the first Latin woman doing so. The
law was subsequently altered to give the vote to men only.
1931 - Suffrage is given to women with university degrees or secondary schools
qualifications. Men had voting rights if they could read and write.
1935 - First three women elected to Parliament.
1946 - Electoral law was altered, but maintained different requirements for men
and women. However, there were then fewer restrictions when compared to
the law approved in 1931.
1968 - Approval of equal political rights for men and women regardless of marital
status is given. For local elections, however, inequalities persisted.
1971 - First woman in the government: Maria Teresa Lobo - Under Secretary of
State for Welfare.
1974 - All electoral restrictions based on sex were abolished.
- First woman minister: Maria de Lourdes Pintasilgo, engineer, Minister of
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3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political
Equality between men and women is a fundamental principle of the
Portuguese Constitution since the 2nd April 1976. The recent revision
of the Constitution dating from the 20th of September 1997 reinforces
this principle stating in Article 9) - h (Fundamental tasks of the State)
that the promotion of equality between men and women is one of the
fundamental tasks of the State. The Constitution states also in Article 109)
(Political participation of citizens) that "Direct and active participation
of men and women in political life is a condition and fundamental instrument
of the consolidation of the democratic system. The law must promote equality
in the exercise of civic and political rights and non-discrimination based
on sex in the access to political office".
Since a discussion on the
revision of the Electoral Law was underway, the Government ordered a study
on the impact of article 109 of the Constitution on the Electoral Law to be
done by a renowned group of five jurists, two men and three women. Their
mission was to explore ways allowing, under the Constitutional scope, to
promote equality of access to decision-making positions and to present
propositions in this sense. The new Electoral Law was not approved and
the government announced the prompt of an independent proposal of Law
aiming at the approval of criteria of parity in the preparation of electoral
The socialist Government approved in the Council of Ministers
meeting on the 25th of June 1998 a proposal of law introducing minimum
percentages of both sexes in the elections for the national and European
Parliaments, both in lists of candidates and in the equivalent reflection
in results. The Government then submitted it to the Parliament. As
Proposal of Law Nº 194/VII, guaranteeing improved equal opportunities in
terms of representation of citizens of each sex in the electoral lists of
both the National Parliamentary Elections and for the Portuguese representation
in the European Parliament.
In March 1999, the Portuguese Parliament
discussed and then rejected this Government proposal, parliamentarians
being more in favour of alternative solutions, such as the adoption of
internal rules by parties, refusing in this way the legal means to
ensure equality in political participation.
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a. Infrastructure responsible for EO
In 1999, a Minister for Equality was appointed for the first
time, Maria de Belém Roseira. The Office of the Minister for Equality
comes under the Prime Minister's Office. It is currently responsible for
the Commission for Equality and Women's Rights, the Commission for Equality
in Work and Employment, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Immigration
and Ethnic Minorities.
This was the achievement of a long process
beginning in 1970 with the establishment of a Working Group on the
Participation of Women in Economic and Social Life, chaired by Maria de
Lourdes Pintasilgo. As a continuation of this group, the Commission on Social
Policy for Women was created. In 1975, this Commission was given a new name,
the Commission on the Status of Women. In 1977, the Commission on the Status
of Women was given an organic status and attached to the Prime Minister's Office.
In 1979, the Commission for Equality in Work and Employment was set up with the
purpose of guaranteeing the application of the law on this same issue. In 1991,
the Commission for Equality and Women's Rights replaced the Commission on the
Status of Women and, later that year, was provisionally attached to the
Minister of Employment and Social Security. It was transferred again, four
years later, to the Prime Minister's Office. In 1996, the Office of the High
Commissioner for Equality and the Family was created, also attached to the
Prime Minister's Office. This High Commissioner had equivalent status to an
Under-Secretary of State and was responsible, amongst other services, for
the Commission for Equality and Women's Rights. This Office was abolished
in 1999 with the appointment of a Minister for Equality.
for Equality and Women's Rights operates in the same way as a Ministerial
Directorate General, in all fields relevant to Equal Opportunities between
men and women. It endeavours to ensure that men and women have equal
opportunities, rights and dignity. In addition, it promotes effective
joint responsibility in all fields of family working, social, cultural,
economic and political life, and encourages society to regard motherhood
and fatherhood as social functions and to shoulder the consequent responsibilities.
It has a Consultative Council with two sections. The first is namely a
Joint Ministerial Section made up of representatives of governmental
administrative departments relevant to the work of the Commission operating
as equality consultants. The second is a Non-Governmental Organizations
Section comprising NGOs that have similar objectives to the Commission,
endeavour to improve women's living conditions and status or promote equality.
The Overall Plan for Equality, which was approved by the Council of
Ministers on 6 March 1997, primarily meets the concern about implementing
gender mainstreaming into the various Ministries' policies and activities.
The Ministerial Advisors on Equality, appointed by the respective ministries,
have regularly sat on the Consultative Council of the Commission for Equality
and Women's Rights since its inception, helping to ensure the implementation
of the action Plan.
The Programme adopted by the Government elected
on 10 October 1999, comprises two major transversal subjects, one of
which is Equal Opportunities. Gender mainstreaming, which involves integrating
Equal Opportunities between men and women into all sectorial policies, is
considered a mainstay of governmental action.
There is still another
equality mechanism: the Parliamentary Commission for Parity, Equal
Opportunities and Family.
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b. Women's participation in politics as a
governmental objective and strategy
The Programme adopted by the Government elected on 10 October
1999, comprises two major transversal subjects, one of which is Equal
Opportunities. In this Programme, the Government commits itself to giving
a strong impetus to the promotion of equal opportunities for men and women.
This implies the reformulation of deep-rooted conceptions of the organization
of family life, political life and parties themselves, of the sharing of
tasks between women and men, and of the organization of the world of labour
and teaching institutions according to this new paradigm of parity.
The Programme contains general and specific measures aimed at reaching equality.
Among the general measures, the Government commits itself to the adoption
of a Second Overall Plan for Equality which, following the previous one
and taking into account the evaluations undertaken, will reflect the
current context. It commits itself also to the reinforcement of the
participation of civil society, through the support given to NGOs working
in the field of equal opportunities.
In its V Chapter, "The quality
of democracy", the Programme states the will to proceed reforming the way
politics are carried out in Portugal. The way political institutions work,
as initiated by the XIII Constitutional Government, reconciles citizens
with mechanisms of representation and participation in political life,
and adapts political parties to the new challenges of democracy.
In order to achieve this, the Government will promote the reform of
the State and of political institutions, namely through proposals and
initiatives such as:
- Legislative measures of positive discrimination aimed at increasing the
participation of the underrepresented sex in the elective bodies of national
and local scope and in the bodies of appointment and political trust.
- Revision of the system of local government, in order to reinforce the
stability of the executive bodies and the personalization of voting.
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c. Actions initiated to promote women's
participation in politics
The Commission for Equality and Women's Rights regularly publishes a
chapter containing statistical data on women in decision-making in a book
annually updated, called "Portugal Status of Women". The dissemination of
this data makes the under representation of women in the different
decision-making fields more visible. It is also a starting point for
several initiatives in this area.
The Technical Secretariat
for Matters of the Electoral Process- STAPE, a government department,
has been regularly publishing studies containing a detailed analysis of
women elected at the municipal level. The fact, that these studies are
usually launched three to four years after each municipal election has
taken place, makes them more useful for historical purposes.
Commission undertook a study in 1995 and published it in 1996.
This study on "New indicators for Equality" dedicated a chapter to
indicators of the participation of women in public and political life.
addition, in 1995, two women parliamentarians, Margarida Silva Pereira (PSD)
and Ana Maria Bettencourt (PS) published a book called "Political Women -
Their causes". The book contains interviews with 30 of the most distinguished
women in Portuguese political life after the 1974 Revolution. The interviews
address the women in terms of the tasks accomplished and longevity in this
field. These interviews gather biographical data, the causes the women
defend, and their attitudes towards the participation of women in politics.
The interviews are complemented by the analysis of an inquiry to women in
parliament or ex-parliamentarians, focusing on the same subjects.
"Democracy with more citizenship" is the title of a book published in 1999
by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers containing articles of
distinguished jurists, constitutionalists, and political individualities
on the issue of the quality of democracy, parity, equal participation in
political life and measures to increase women's participation in decision-making.
Also published the same year was a book called "Women in politics", deriving
from a sociological study ordered by the Government and more precisely by
the former Secretary of State Presidency of the Council of Ministers to the
Centre of Research and Studies in Sociology of the High Institute of Sciences
of Work and Enterprises - ISCTE. The study produces analyses of the possible
impact on political parties if the Proposal of Law referred in point 2.3
were to be approved. It also analyses similar policies and measures already
existing in several countries.
A NGO, the Alliance for Parity
Democracy, launched in 1999, with the presence of the Minister for
Parliamentary Affairs, António Costa, a book called "After all, what is
parity democracy". The book is meant to give answers to the question "what
is parity democracy?" and "why is there a need to adopt it?"
have had an important role in the struggle for a greater participation of
women in citizenship and for their increased presence in decision-making.
From 1993 on several NGOs were created with this purpose, among which the
Network of Women Elected at Local Level - REMA, the Alliance for Parity
Democracy, the Association Ana de Castro Osório. In 1995, as a movement
of the civil society, the Observatory of Citizenship was also created.
These NGOs implemented several initiatives such as information and awareness
raising campaigns and seminars.
We should also mention the
important role played by the members of the European Network "Women
in Decision-Making" in concerns such as gathering data on the presence
of women at all levels of decision-making. They were also concerned about
the dissemination of this data through research, and implementation of
projects co-financed by the European Commission involving NGOs aimed at
increasing women's presence in the elections for the European Parliament
in 1993-94, in the local elections of 1994-95, again in 1995-96, and as a
preparation for the local elections of 1997. The first of these three
projects paved the way to an initiative of three women members of Parliament,
the Parity Parliament, which took place in January 1994 in the Portuguese
Parliament. 115 women, former or present members of Parliament, invited the
same number of men parliamentarians to sit with them in Parliament and debate
the situation of women in Portugal, citizenship and parity democracy.
(At that time, out of 230 members of Parliament, only 21 were women).
The campaigns deriving from these initiatives included spots in television
and radio, debates, seminars, and meetings with political decision-makers.
These efforts contributed in a great extent to give visibility to this issue
and to put it on the political agenda.
The Commission for Equality
and Women's Rights contributed also to these efforts by disseminating
statistical data, the Athens and Rome Declarations, E.U.'s and other
international organizations' resolutions, recommendations and political
texts engaging the Portuguese Government. They also gave technical and
financial support to NGOs' initiatives, such as seminars and research projects.
The Department of Socialist Women also benefited from this support in the
undertaking of two research projects on this issue in 1996 and in 1998.
In 1998, after the revision of the Portuguese Constitution (1997), the
Government itself assumed the process, by affirming the need to address
the issue in the Law. In 1998, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs
raised this debate in Parliament. Several studies were ordered, and a
Proposal of Law was presented and defended (1999). Before the presentation
of this Proposal of Law, the Parliamentary Commission for Parity, Equal
Opportunities and Family organized an Audition in Parliament giving voice
namely to Cabinet Members, to Heads of Mechanisms for Equality (present and former),
to Heads of Political Parties sitting in Parliament, to representatives of
NGO belonging to the Consultative Council of the Commission for Equality
and Women's Rights, to representatives of Civic Associations, and to the
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