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Poland: Parties Not So Eager to Obey New Gender Quota Act

With the announcement of the date of the Polish parliamentary elections – to be held on October 9, 2011 – a discussion has started on whether the Polish political parties will follow the new rules introduced by the Gender Quota Act, which was passed earlier this year.

According to the new legislation, each party running for parliament should have at least 35 percent of women on its candidate list. Although this is not the most demanding obligation, the parties seem to be finding it surprisingly hard to fulfill their duty.

A research conducted by TOKFM [pl], a popular radio station and Internet portal, reveals the true nature of gender politics in the main Polish parties. The data collected shows that in the parliamentary elections of 2007, out of over 6,000 candidates only 23 percent were women. Of the three parties that had the highest number of women on their tickets, none managed to enter the parliament. Only one out of five Polish MPs is a woman. The most shocking figure shows that out of 107 city mayors only four are women.

At the end of last week, most parties revealed their complete candidate lists. Blogger Goetz, who covers the Polish social and political situation on Lewica.pl, a Polish left-wing portal, wrote this [pl] on August 10:

[…] Today, we have a chance to observe the implementation of the quota act. And what do we see? On the horizon, we can watch the grim fruition of the common saying “A Pole can.” Because it is true that Poles have mastered the art of evading the law, including the quota act that has just joined a bunch of other acts existing only on paper.

It seems to have become a habit for the majority of parties to put women on lower places on the tickets, which practically eliminates their chances to be elected. On the so-called “guaranteed places” women are scarce, no to mention [the top positions on the candidate lists]. Women have become – and we shoud have seen it coming – the ticket's “fillers”, put there only to fulfill the demands of the Quota Act. In some cases they were given higher positions just to pull the wool over our eyes – it was mostly done by the parties that don't stand much of a chance in this year's elections anyway. […]

Another post on Lewica.pl portal, written by prekiel, states [pl]:

The party of Grzegorz Napieralski [SLD, a left-wing party], which was the first to demand the implementation of parities on the tickets, decided to change its mind. And even though we cannot complain about the lack of women on the tickets, it's obvious that they were not given any important positions. Out of 41 tickets composed by SLD, only on four a woman was placed on the first position – which accounts for only 10%. Nepotism seems to be more important than the promises made earlier, not to mention the abilities of women.

Blogger koziolekweb clearly states that he was against the passing of the act from the very beginning. In his post titled “The number of the breasts must be right,” he writes [pl]:

Every day we are getting closer and closer to the parlimentary elections. This time it will be held under the abnormal rule of the Quota Act ensuring 35 percent of the seats for the gender minority. The stupidity of this solution is overwhelming, but after the recent events, it's even more obvious. The parties didn't bother to put any effort into composing of the tickets. Both PiS [Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski‘s right-wing party] and PO [Civic Platform, the ruling party] put breasts on the ticktes. I have to admit that in both of these parties there are female members who are professionals (most of them are members of PiS), but they are not enough to fulfill the obligation of 35 percent. So the parties fill the gaps with ladies whose capacities are more than visible when it comes to the neckline. At least PO is not making a show out of this the way PiS is doing when it is promoting their leader using the breasts of some political tweenie.

As the implementation of the Quota Act isn't going too smoothly, we should perhaps take a closer look at the Act itself, for it has caused a huge debate even before it was passed by the vote. The bill, created by The Congress of Women – “Poland’s largest non-political civic movement, founded in 2009, aiming at equality of rights, opportunities, and potential of women and men in both the private and the public spheres” – even now is a cause for a heated debate.

The logo of the Congress of Women - 'Women for Poland, Poland for Women'

The logo of the Congress of Women – 'Women for Poland, Poland for Women'

Many Polish bloggers openly oppose the Act and criticize politicians for having implemented it. Blogger Stefanb wrote [pl] two weeks ago:

In this situation it is all about the tickets for the upcoming elections, but when speaking of “gender equality” they [feminists] also speak of “equality in professional career, equal access to promotion” or even of “equal relations in the family.” These are also the spheres where “femi-nazis” and the “politically-correcting” would love to have parity, no matter what. They would love to have parity in washing the dishes, cleaning, taking care of the babies – half of the time a woman would be taking care of this, and the other half – a man. Unfortunately, I fear that this crazy politics would be a ‘success’, and by that I mean there would be an even bigger mess in this country compared to what we have now.

It's not only men who speak out against the Quota Act. For example, blogger Evcom writes [pl]:

I think that the idea of parity in politics is not at all about administering justice or implementing equality. It's obvious – and we don't need to discuss parities to come to that – that work is more effective when the people in the workplace are diverse. The question is whether women really want to join politics?

Another blogger, krzysztofsiuda, has some doubts on whether such an act could be democratically justifiable, but admits nevertheless:

From many opinions I've heard it follows that for a woman to achieve a rightful place in politics means much more of an effort than for a man, because they come across many more problems. I think there's something to it. Maybe through this “fake law” we would finally be able to achieve normality? If this happens, after a few years we won't need this fake imposition and everything will be in place – everyone will be equally capable of participating in politics, regardless of the gender. We'll see, time will show…

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