Gender equality: "political quotas have worked!"

Since the introduction of quotas for a minimum representation of men and women on Belgian candidate lists more women have been elected to political office. In elections Belgium uses the list system with each party presenting a list of candidates to fill the available places.

The candidates at the top of the list stand most chance of being elected, but voters can influence the ranking by casting a vote in support of one individual candidate and boosting his or her chances of being elected.

Because women were underrepresented in political assemblies Belgian legislated to guarantee that at least a third of candidates on election lists have to come from a different gender to the majority.

Vera Claes of the Equality Institute says that a clear step towards greater political representation of women has now been set: "We've noticed that since the introduction of the quotas the representation of women has improved considerably. We're talking about levels of between 30% and 40%. That's a good thing and nowadays nobody is saying that the quotas are a bad thing. Still, we must persist, but there is a long road to go. It's a positive development that in such a short time we have made so much progress."

The Institute's report speaks of greater equality between men and women, though girls between 12 and 18 years of age are still doing more household talks than boys.