Benin is considered one of the more politically stable states in the West African region, mainly because of previous successful elections and peaceful transitions of power.i Parliamentary elections initially slated for April 17, 2011 were postponed to 30th April due to delay in the presidential elections and the registration of parliamentary candidates.
Benin’s National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) is unicameral and made up of 83 members who are elected by popular vote to serve four year terms.ii Women in Benin make up a small percentage of legislators and top decision makers in ministries. Women’s political participation in public life is inhibited by oppression based in beliefs about the appropriate roles and limited talents accorded to women.
In August 2010, the National Assembly adopted a new law on the election of members of the National Assembly.iii It raised the statutory number of members from 83 to 99 and set a 20 per-cent quota for women in all party lists for parliamentary elections. However, in September, the Constitutional Court nullified both provisions. It stated that increasing the statutory number of members would be allowable only if there were sufficient financial resources and that the quota for women candidates violated the principle of gender equality guaranteed by the Constitution. The Court stated that such a quota could be justified only if it applied to both genders or if a higher percentage was applied (since women account for 52% of Benin's population). Consequently, the 2011 elections were held for 83 seats in the National Assembly without any women's quota for party lists; a reflection of women’s political participation in Benin!
Only eight women were elected and of these, the first lady Chantal de Souza later resigned and was replaced by her male counterpart, which reduced the number of women from 8 to 7. In May 2011, Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi appointed eight (8) women as cabinet ministers out of the total number of 27 ministers.iv This is considered a big improvement in women’s participation because the number of women ministers was increased by four. However, there is still a lot that needs to be done in Benin to increase women’s political participation and put women in decision-making positions.
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