Quick facts

Qualitative facts

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

Europäische Datenbank: Frauen in Führungspositionen

Report from Spain by our transnational partner
Carlota Bustelo und Ana Chillida

Quick facts
Women in Politics:
Women's suffrage active: 1931
Women's suffrage passive: 1931
1st Women in parliament: 1977 alltogether 22 women
1st Women in government: 1936- 1937 Federica Montserny Ma?,
Ministry of Health and Social Assistance
1st Ministry on women's issues: 1983 Women's Institute, first reported to the Ministry of Culture, then to the Ministry of Social Affairs.
% women in national Parliament: 27,1% (2000)
% women in national Government: 17,6% (2000)
Electoral System:
Proportional: Congress of Deputies:
350 deputies; 348 elected by party list vote from 50 multi-seat (min.2) provinces, 2 elected by plurality vote from 2 single-seat constituencies (Ceuta, Melilla).
Quota Law: No quota regulation legislation.
Party Quota: Since 1988 a quarter min. within the Socialists, since the 90ies all other parties introduced quota regulations.
% women with secondary degree: 60,4 % (1996-1997)
% women with degree in higher education: 58,2% (1997)
% women in senior management: 7,7% (1999)
Women's employment rates:
Full time: 30,6% (1998)
Part-time: 17,2% (1998)
Activity rate: 47,9% (1998)
Unemployment: 26,6% (1998)
*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.

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Qualitative facts

1. Electoral system and party system and their impact on women

Starting from international recommendations to apply affirmative action, Spanish political parties began to consider naming women to posts of executive responsibility within their party hierarchies. The quotas adopted by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and their subsequent influence on other political organizations led to a notable representation of women in both houses of Congress as well as in positions of responsibility in the State Administration. This reality within the different political organizations has triggered a debate aimed at reforming the electoral system in order to establish the degree of representation that will be accorded to women. To date, the positive actions carried out by the political parties in this regard have not been reflected in electoral law. Today in Spain, neither the electoral system nor the party system favours the participation of women on an equal footing with men.

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2. History of Women's suffrage

Although the roots of women's demands to be heard can be traced back to the beginning of history itself, world-wide, the twentieth century would prove fundamental for subsequent generations due to the birth of the feminist movement as the driving force behind improvements in the social conditions of women. In Spain, which can boast of few antecedents in the suffragist struggle, demands for the right to vote began to take shape during the 2nd Republic (1931), when women started entering the industrial workforce and began participating in political endeavours. At this time, a reform of the electoral law recognized a woman's right to be elected to public office, and the government expressed its desire to incorporate women into the new republican project. Women first joined political parties during the Civil War years, acting as both base militants as well as leaders in positions of political responsibility. With the end of the war, however, a "period of exile and silence for the women's movement and of regression in legal regulations" descended upon the country during the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. Until the first democratic elections were held in 1977, the many claims and demands made by feminists and women's movements over the preceding decades were not taken into consideration.

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3. Legal framework for the promotion of a balance between men and women in political decision-making

The Spanish Constitution (1978), in Articles 9.2 and 14, establishes freedom and equality of rights for all Spaniards...and non-discrimination for reasons of gender. The implementation and development of the Constitution led to the need within political parties to establish a legal framework for the incorporation of women into positions of decision-making. In Spain, the female members of the PSOE, supported by women's organizations, led delegates to its 31st Congress (1988) to demand that a quota of 25% be instituted. Although a step forward, this achievement did not suppose, in practice, the appointment of women to 25% of all positions of responsibility. Still, the measure created social awareness, and led other organizations, both progressive as well as conservative ones, to include women in their decision-making structures and political bodies.

Starting with the Athens Conference, women began questioning the democratic system and demanding parity, arguing that society cannot be considered democratic as long as 52% of those in public and political life are not female, a figure that corresponds with social demographic reality. This claim would be included in the platform of the 34th Congress of the Socialist Party (1997), which confirmed the "democracy of parity", in which the representation of each gender would be not less than 40% or more than 60% in any governing, controlling or executive body of the party. These percentages would also be applicable to party voting lists as well as posts of political responsibility overall.

Substantial reforms have also been made in the Penal and Civil Codes, situating women on a plane of legal and formal equality with men, although these have not transcended to the daily lives and women and their social, professional and political realities.

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a. Infrastructure responsible for EO

Although movements of women affiliated with progressive political parties and independent feminist platforms fought for a ministry specific to women, Law 16/83 limited itself to setting up a "Women's Institute (Instituto de la Mujer), initially part of the Ministry of Culture and later, in 1988, an autonomous body that would answer directly to the Minister of Social Affairs.

The action criterion on which the Women's Institute is based is the principle of equality in all actions. A Governing Board made up by representatives from each Ministry, in order to promote equal opportunities in all policies and projects that arise out of their many departments and sections, runs it.

The first director of the Institute was Carlota Bustelo, who lent ideological content to it and set up three General Vice-directorates and the General Secretariat. These political bodies generate the policies of equality that other institutions must follow.

One of the functions of the Women's Institute is to study the legal and sociological situation of women and monitor the application of current regulations and legislation. The consulting it provides to Ministries on their efforts to achieve these goals is also important, as are its efforts to foster the measures needed to eliminate discrimination for reasons of gender. In addition, the Institute has prepared three Equality Plans, in line with the legal development of the European Union, which has implemented action programmes aimed at furthering equal opportunity.

At present, the Institute is part of the Under-Secretary's Office for Social Affairs of the Ministry of Social Affairs. Its ability to make legal demands on the different ministries led in its time to the concept of transversality, now are reality as confirmed by the 4th World Women's Conference. Nevertheless, the problems involved in implementing these agreements and laws into a society still made up in part by clearly sexist components persist.

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b. Women's participation in politics as a governmental objective and strategy

Since 1978, the strategy of women in Spain has been directed at accessing positions of decision-making in the different governments. Nevertheless, the initial result of these efforts, supported by the strategy of quotas and other demands, was the appointment of women to head up only two ministries, both in some way related to the traditional concept of the "woman": the Ministries of Culture and of Social Affairs. A quantitative change would not be observed until after the elections of 1992, when women were appointed to head up three ministries, act as the Government Spokesperson and occupy 59 upper-level posts in the national administration. That same year, a woman would also be named to the General Council of the Judiciary (Consejo General del Poder Judicial) for the first time. In 1996, the number of women holding positions of responsibility in local administrations rose, women were heading up three ministries -Justice, the Environment and Culture- and a woman was elected to preside over the Senate of the nation.

In the latest elections, held in March 2000, the participation of women in the electoral lists surpassed the 40-60% participation quota for women, producing the so-called "zipper" concept. Any valuation of the political participation of women must be positive, since its evolution over time is upwards.

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c. Actions initiated to promote women's participation in politics

Statistical data show that the scant presence of women in the upper echelons of organizations is a problem of social organization that must be tackled. The social pressure exerted by different sectors of society has been the first step towards creating social awareness and balancing existing inequalities. The government has incorporated affirmative action into its policies aimed at establishing equal opportunities through measures that allow correcting the discrimination arising out of social practices or systems.

Several of these positive actions that merit special mention include campaigns aimed at distributing responsibilities, specific measures for increasing the presence of women in all strata of society (training courses, reductions in Social Insurance fees, etc.) and the introduction of gender mainstreaming into all government policies, programmes and projects for promoting the equality of men and women.

Female experts in gender issues have researched and published sociological data, statistics and studies that have helped executive and political decision-making bodies to gain awareness of social reality. They have also fostered programmes and projects aimed at promoting the participation of women in politics.

The three Equality Plans prepared by the Women's Institute have also contributed to helping overcome inequalities and encouraging the participation of women. The First Plan (1988-1990) focused on the elimination of legal inequalities; the Second Plan (1993-95), centred on the development of affirmative actions; and the Third Plan (1997-2000) develops the principal of integration from the perspective of mainstreaming set out at the Beijing Summit and in the 4th Community Action Programme.

In addition, the funding of NGOs has permitted these organizations to carry out awareness enhancement campaigns regarding the need for women to participate in politics. Statistical studies on the number of women in positions of responsibility, which have been carried out by NGOs at the request of the government, have been one means for determining the reality of the situation. This has enabled the government to be able to take the necessary steps (educational and informative campaigns) towards ascertaining defects and analysing the scant presence of women in different decision-making bodies.

Finally, the broad dissemination of the "New Social Contract", which emphasizes the concept of sharing family and work responsibilities in both in the public as well as private realms, should also be highlighted.

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