The Delegation of Chile is honored to be a representative in this UN Women assembly. Chile has had a lot of experience in recent years dealing with the issues of gender quotas in government, women in it’s armed forces, and sexual assault in it’s educational institutions. Chile is prepared and looking forward to sharing the advances it has made in these areas, and learning the approaches taken by other countries. Chile hopes to collaborate with other nations to find permanent solutions to these global issues. The Delegation of Chile is hopeful for the progress that will be achieved during the course of this assembly.
Chile has made slow and steady advances in the inclusion of women in government. In the past, Chile has been viewed as a patriarchal society where women were underrepresented in various fields. However, with the election of President Michelle Bachelet in 2006, many anti-discrimination policies and laws promoting gender equality have been passed. Recently women have made great strides in procuring opportunities that were previously limited to men. While the country still has a ways to go, and its progress is far from perfect, it has continued to work and fight its way to a society where men and women have equal representation in it’s government.
In Chile women were not even involved in politics until the year 1934. 1934 was the year when women got their right to vote. Unfortunately, despite this new right, women were still not considered as either influential or important to politics. But, in 1971, thousands of women marched through Chile’s capital to protest against the election of Salvador Allende and the visit of Fidel Castro. This march came to be known as the “March of the Empty Pots and Pans”, and as a result women came together as a political force. This stance was so influential that in 1977 President Pinochet made this day a national holiday, National Women’s Day. After the “March of the Empty Pots and Pans” women continued to push their way into the male dominated world of politics. In the late 1980’s women accounted for 52% of the national electorate. Because of these women who stood up and made their voices heard, Chile’s culture experienced an uptick in female activism. During this time, in 1989, the first whispers of a gender quota began to circulate. This plan hoped to reinstate a mandatory percentage of a minimum of 30% women in government. However, at the time the majority of lawmakers branded the plan “too radical” and dismissed it.
In the year 2000, a poll found that 90% of Latin Americans said that they would vote for a female president if she was qualified. The same poll also found that 69% of Latin Americans also believed that their country would elect a woman as president by the year 2020. These results communicated the feelings created in Latin American citizens by previous political regimes. Due to past political experiences, the people of Latin America are no longer biased based on gender, now they only want a leader that is capable and they believe will serve and protect them. Because of this new wave of public opinion, women began to have real roles with political responsibility in the Chilean government. That year, women made up 11% of Chilean parliament, 12.3% of mayors, and 17.3% of council members. The number of female mayors and council members grew in 2000 nearly 5% from 1992.
2 years later, in 2002, 33% of Chilean legislators and managers were women. Then, in 2005, the Chilean parliament was 13% female. The next year, 2006, Chile experienced one of the most monumental and historical moments in its history. Michelle Bachelet was elected President of Chile. She became the first woman in South America to win a presidential election without gaining prominence through marriage. Despite the election of Bachelet, as of 2006 Chile was still lower than 8 other Latin American countries in terms of women with political power. In that same year Chile’s lower house was only 15% female, compared with Argentina’s where women made up 42%, Chile was still very far behind. But, Bachelet made a lot of progress with women’s rights. She served as the first executive director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, she fought for women’s rights, and had a cabinet that was 50% female. One year into her presidency, 2007, women made up 15% of the Chilean parliament, higher than 2 years earlier, and this number stayed steady through 2009.
UNICEF conducted a study in 2012 which found that the majority of Latin American women were married at a young age and stayed home to raise children. But, surprisingly Latin America had the highest number of women serving in the positions of president and prime minister in the world. In comparison the marriage age was higher in the US, and 70% of women have jobs outside of their homes. Still the US has never had a female commander in chief. These statistics are surprising, and a bit confusing, but while women are often more independent in the US, Latin America has made more progress in raising women to the highest levels of government.
For many year Chile has had a strange problem. While the nation has accomplished the monumental feat of electing a woman president, it continues to rank very low in terms of women in lower level politics. For example in 2014, Michelle Bachelet was elected president, but at the same time it was ranked very low, percentage wise, as a country with few women in ministerial positions. Chalet was one of 5 women in Latin America to become Head of State, however Chile continued to repeatedly rank very low in term of the amount of women elected into parliament, as mayors, and other political offices. One statistic found that women made up only 15% of the country’s legislators. In fact, Chile ranked in the bottom 3 of 169 countries worldwide on gender equality. It is a paradox how a nation with a female President can be considered one of the most patriarchal societies in the world.
Bachelet announced a gender quota to her party in 2015. The quota law would erase the byzantine electoral system that had been reinstated by the Pinochet regime. Chile hopes that a gender quota will reverse this, as studies have found that gender quotas can increase the participation of women in politics anywhere from 5 to 10%. The Interior Minister of Chile, Rodrigo Peñailillo, said, while speaking about the gender quota,” After 25 years this allows us to end an electoral system that was unique in the world and which has done much damage to Chilean democracy”. In her version of a Gender Quota, Bachelet calls for a 40% minimum of female participation. This minimum is 10% more than the quota voted on in 1989 which had been rejected on the grounds that it was “too radical”. Pepe Auth who was instrumental in the writing of the quota bill said that Chileans are obviously willing to vote for women, but the problem is that there are no women present on the ballots to vote for. Auth also says,”There aren’t women available because they aren’t given opportunities … A quota breaks that construct.” The year before, 2014, Chile was one of only 3 other countries in Latin America, which is ahead of the world in terms of women in its government, that did not have a Gender Quota in place.
Jennifer Piscopo, a european professor, says that gender quotas that have been established in Europe have, ” raised the quality of politicians…and, in fact, … weed out some unqualified men.” In Chile, the vast majority of women want more women involved influential, law making positions because women understand gender equality issues that men are often blind to. The UN, recommended a 50% minimum of female political participation in 2014, although no country has been able to implement a quota this high to date. While Bachelet was in power, in 2015, women accounted for over half of the Chilean population, but they still made up less than half of the country’s labor force. Chilean society causes women to be seen as and to feel as though they are worth less than men. A Gender Quota would be a step towards reversing this antiquated belief and would aid in creating a anti-discriminatory and gender-equal society where everyone would have equal opportunities. In 2015 Bachelet was still able to stimulate a slight growth in the participation of women and women made up 5% more cabinet positions than the countries of Canada, and the US.
On January 20, 2015, Chile’s congress passed the gender quota bill. It dramatically reformed the nation’s electoral system. It eliminated the previous electoral system which was founded in 1969, and left women extremely under represented. The new law stated that both men and women must make up at least 40% of candidates, and that neither gender may account for more than 60%. Unfortunately, this Quota is only a temporary, “band-aid” solution, as it only applies for 4 elections. After the 2029 elections it will no longer be enforced. But, Chile hopes that the societal shift caused by the quota will survive its passing and will have swayed the public to continue electing women into its government. Although a few members of Chile’s conservative party have expressed their opposition, the vast majority of Chileans have voiced their support for a gender quota. In 2017 women made up 17% of Chilean parliament, and 65% of Chileans agreed that their country would be better with more women in its government. Overall the response from Chile when asked about increasing the number of women in politics has been a loud and resounding “YES!”.