Women’s political rights are an integral part of human rights and respecting their rights is necessary in any democratic framework. It is estimated that women account for over the half the population in a majority of the societies. If the majority does not enjoy their political rights, it means that the society is undemocratic. Many societies in the world are therefore undemocratic as women do not get a chance to fully realize their political rights.
The need for women in politics is best phrased by Pamela Mboya ;
“Without women actually participating in politics, not much will be achieved in the way of getting laws passed to safeguard the rights of widows and women, married and divorced under tribal law; discrimination in employment and even educational opportunities. Women want so urgently to get into politics; they do not want merely to compete with them. They want to be able to speak their minds and be heard. “
In addition, Tamerius arguesthat the interests of women are best represented by fellow women rather than men; hence it is indispensable that more women participate in politics. Political participation is important because of the following reasons; first, it fosters democracy as men and women are allowed to equally participate in politics. Second, as mentioned by Tamerius, women’s interests are best represented by women. Third, women’s participation ensures that women’s rights cannot be undermined.
States are under a legal obligation to ensure that there is equal representation and participation of women in politics. This obligation is enshrined in various international texts. Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights for example places great emphasis on gender equality. This sets pace for women’s participation in politics. It gives a specific undertaking f or state parties to the Convention to ‘ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights.’ This article argues to the effect that political rights are a necessity and every state party to the convention must ensure equal achievement of this right. Equality is also resonated in the Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination against Women. The Convention proclaims that states should ensure that discrimination of women in politics is eliminated.
Specifically on women’s political rights, the 1952 UN Convention the Political Rights of Women was enacted to ensure equality of rights. In its preamble, it recognizes that ‘everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country directly or through freely chosen representatives, and has the right to equal access to public service in his country…’ It provides for women rights to vote or to be voted for. States therefore have a duty to put in place legislative and/or policy measures to ensure that these rights are fully enjoyed.
Yet, despite the enactment of many laws that advocate for women participation in politics, their participation is still low. As in 2001, the world average of women in parliament stood at 19.5%. According to the United Nations, the 30 percent mark for women’s representation in parliament hasonly been reached in 28 countries in the world. The progress is still slow but the substantial progress cannot be gainsaid.
http://www.unilorin.edu.ng/studproj/law/0640il004.pdf (accessed on 24/06/2012)
 Reported in the East Africa Journal (1964) as quoted in Engendering Democracy in Kenya: Effects of Multiparty Electoral Systme on Women Participation in Politics
Karen L. Tamerius, “Sex, Gender, and Leadership in the Representation of Women.” Gender, Power, Leadership, and Governance. Ed. Georgia Duerst-Lahtiand Rita Mae Kelly. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995. 93-114.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/mar/07/women-representation-in-politics-worldwide (accessed on 24/03/2012)
http://www.unwomen.org/2011/09/world-leaders-draw-attention-to-central-role-of-womens-political-participation-in-democracy/ (accessed on 24/06/2012)
By Brenda Mwale