Is Gender a More Important Axis of Representation Than Race, Ethnicity or Class in Politics?

Is Gender a More Important Axis of Representation Than Race, Ethnicity or Class in Politics?

Abu Saleh Mohammad Sowad (University of Dhaka, Dhaka, Bangladesh)
DOI: 10.4018/IJSESD.2019040103

Abstract

This article argues that having representatives from all parts of the society in politics will help the policies to be more people-centric. Including more and more women in the political field will not diminish the significance of representing any minority group in legislative issues, rather it will focus on proliferating the dynamic interest of those underestimated people who are incessantly being doubly enslaved, not just for their socio/religious/class/ethnic identities, but additionally for their gender identities. This argument is based on the claim that women's increased participation in the political field is required not only on the grounds that there are some particular women's issues that could be more effectively taken care of by women. Additionally, no sort of development in society can be accomplished by keeping women in a marginalized position. Hence, this article suggests that we can begin with by having gender as the most important axis in politics and ultimately reach to a fairer and libertarian culture by progressively comprising other axes.
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Introduction

Members of all the social groups and all sectors of the society must have a voice in policy-making in a representative democracy (Clots-Figueras, 2011). Does it mean that representatives from each and every group carry the same weight or some group means and needs to be more emphasized than others? This study hypothesizes that bringing change in the gender composition of political and legislative bodies might change the social structure that has put women in a secondary status in the society across all other social groups and identities. Women are neither just a social class nor a minority group but are half of the world population as men. Women are black, women are poor, women are Muslim, women are African, women are Asian, and women are homosexual; women are present in all types of diversified social, religious or ethnic groups. While comprising almost half of the total world population (49.6% according to Esa.un.org, 2018), as of 1st January 2018, women still are underrepresented in almost all political positions. The global average of women in national assemblies around the world is 23.4% (Archive.ipu.org, 2018). Besides, many of the legislative norms are not gender neutral either and those could institutionalize gender bias within a certain legislative body (Kerevel & Atkeson, 2013).

Whereas half of the voters in every democratic country are women, when it comes to active political participation in political parties or in legislature women lag far behind then men. As in reality half of the members of almost all kinds of existing socio-cultural ethnic groups are women so when we speak about including more and more women in the political arena it doesn’t lessen the importance of representing any minority group in politics, rather it targets to proliferate active participation of those marginalized population who are constantly being doubly subjugated not only for their socio/religious/class/ethnic identity but also for their gender identity as well. The most important question and criticism regarding group essentialism is the plurality of identity of group members (Young, 2002). As legislative bodies are responsible to make and authorize policies, having representatives from all spheres of the society in politics will help the policies to be more people-centric.

Though gender identities are perceived to be rock solid at any given time and place, they can still be deviated based on individual’s life choices. Yet, it will definitely be a mistake to separate gender from other identities like race, class, age, sexuality, and ethnicity to see the experiences that women have in common (Young, 1994). As Sigle-Rushton (2013) discussed that there is no homogenous group of women that experience gender discrimination in the same way. Sexism and racism can never be understood and redressed separately, and then treated as isolated entities. Legislation following this method will fail to provide equal protection to women of color. Gender role expectations, being the major divider, traverse with other social identities traverse with other social identities and can be adopted, contested, or obeyed in diverse ways depending on other basic identities of the individual (Martey, Stromer-Galley, Banks, Wu, & Consalvo, 2014).

We should always remember that gender is not only another axis of representation but it is the intersectional axis that intersects every other possible axes of representations from the middle. In this study, the importance of increasing women’s participation in the political arena have been explored and it has been tried to locate how such action will have a positive impact on the political representation of social minority like ethnic/racial/class-based groups.

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