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Why Kazakhstan Introduces Quotas for Women and Young People?

On May 25, the president of Kazakhstan Kassym Zhomart-Tokayev signed amendments to the elections law. They introduce mandatory 30 per cent quotas for women and young people into voting lists of political parties.


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Together with the human rights defender and co-founder of Krylya Svobody Public Foundation Roman Reimer and co-founder of Feminita Gulzada Serzhan we will take a closer look at why Kazakhstan needs quotas and more women and young people in politics.

See also: How Has the Composition of the Parliament of Kazakhstan Changed Since 1999?

Quotas? What are they?

Quota is a fixed share of representatives of any given gender/age in the total number of politicians, employees in a company, or students. In other words, now party voting lists should contain at least 30 per cent of women and citizens under 29 years old (people under 29 years old are deemed young people in Kazakhstan – editor’s note).

How is it working now?

Now there is no standard regarding the number of women or young people that should be, for example, in the parliament. Political parties make party lists of candidates that are considered most worthy by party leaders.

Anyway, there are women and young people in politics. What’s the need for quota?

This is done to increase the representation of women and young people in politics and to bring issues that are important for them into focus. Quotas are needed to create role models so that young people and women could see success stories and could be guided by them.

Today, gender quotas apply in more than 120 out of 193 member countries of the United Nations. In Central Asia, 30 per cent quotas for women are secured in legislation of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.

Moreover, on October 24, 2019, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended Kazakhstan to revise the Concept of family and gender policy in order to set a 50 per cent quota of representation of women in all spheres of life.

What if there are few women and young people among candidates?

This is a mandatory requirement and political parties that are going to run in the elections will have to make sure that their lists contain at least one-third of women and young people.

Why involve women and young people into politics? Let the most experienced and worthy come.

Women and young people make up just over half of population of Kazakhstan and their interests must be represented, too. They will bring another agenda to politics – they raise more social issues. Just because they encounter problems in these spheres and make them more obvious. This, in turn, improves the efficiency of state agencies.

Theoretically, the party construction system, inclusion into party lists for election to the lower chamber of parliament should be based on the principle of meritocracy (the principle of management, when the most able people regardless of their social origin and financial welfare must hold executive posts). Therefore, experience and age are not equal to efficiency.

Therefore, quotas will let worthy candidates among women and young people have an opportunity to be represented in the legislative branch.

Isn’t it discrimination against men?

Quotas do not mean discrimination. Vice versa, they are the measures to overcome inequality. They are a tool of providing equal opportunity to women and young people, especially at the decision-making level.

Do women in Kazakhstan want to get into politics? Maybe they don’t want to.

Women’s marches, protests of mothers take place in Kazakhstan, and there are many activist mothers across the country. These are political acts. Besides, there are movements against violence against women.

Although party bodies depend strongly on the presidential power, they consist mainly of female teachers and doctors at the lowest levels of parties.

During protests, marches, public discussions organised by women, they bring issues that are not solved in the state that is run by men. In the democratic system, the voices of these women should be heard in the parliament.

Therefore, the question “what if they don’t want to” is unreasonable and devalues the problems that various women bring for discussion across Kazakhstan.

In other countries, quotas are provided for women only, and here they apply both to young people and women. Is it good?

Kazakhstan has ratified the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Back in the 2000s, the country was recommended to introduce quotas to support more women in politics and government management. If we implemented this earlier, we would discuss the introduction of 50 per cent quota for women.

However, Kazakhstan takes certain measures in this direction. The fact that they introduce quotas for women and young people undermines the purpose of equality and justice for women. It does not comply with the UN recommendations and UN sustainable development goals.

The quota for women might include young people to justify future obstacles for women and low indicators.

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