Angola: Women's representation quotas
Updated March 2009
The constitution of Angola makes no provision for quotas to ensure women's representation in publicly elected bodies on any level. In general the constitution is gender blind using formulations such as "citizens", "person" and "his or her". Sex is mentioned only once and in a manner that would, on the face of it, make the adoption of legal gender quotas unconstitutional: "All citizens shall be equal under the law and shall enjoy the same rights and be subject to the same duties, without distinction as to colour, race, ethnic group, sex, place of birth, religion, ideology, level of education or economic or social status. All acts aimed at jeopardizing social harmony or creating discrimination or privileges based on those factors shall be severely punishable by law" (Constitutional Law of the Republic of Angola 1992, Article 18). Women per se are recognised only within the context of the family: "Men and women shall be equal within the family, enjoying the same rights and having the same duties" (Constitutional Law of the Republic of Angola 1992, Article 29(2)). Nowhere in the constitution is there any recognition that women have suffered (or continue to suffer) discrimination and marginalisation or that there is any need to take remedial measures to rectify past injustices.
There are indications that this situation is no longer regarded as satisfactory by the Angolan government. In reply to a question raised by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women Filomena Delgado, Vice-Minister for Family and Promotion of Women, remarked "that a draft of Angola's new constitution had been elaborated from a gender perspective and would be open for public discussion. The present composition of Parliament was based on the results of the first fair and just elections in 1992, and significant changes were expected in the next elections" (United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 2004). This was contextualised as part of a wider awareness that recognised the need "to address gender-based stereotypes, as well as efforts to improve women's' access to education, employment and sexual and reproductive health care" (United Nations Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women 2004).
The draft constitution referred to, however, has been before the National Assembly since January 2004 and has not yet been made law. The National Assembly elections scheduled for September 2008 will in all likelihood proceed on the basis of the old constitution so the dramatic changes envisaged by Delgado will take some time to materialise.
In the absence of legal measures to ensure better representation of women in elective bodies in the immediate future, it is voluntary quotas imposed by parties on their candidates that provided the best prospect for gains to be made in the 2008 elections. Angola has a proportional representation system for the election of members of the National Assembly. In other countries where this electoral system has been combined with voluntary party quotas (especially where there it is a dominant ruling party) this has led to relatively high levels of women's representation in legislatures; Mozambique (35.6%), South Africa (33%) and Namibia (27%) are instances of this (see Gender issues: Women's representation in the Lower House of Parliament. In Angola the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) adopted a 30% quota of women for its candidates. This resulted in a dramatic rise in women's representation in the National Assembly from 9.5% in the 1992 election to 37.3% (van Kessel 1999; IPU 1992, 2009).
CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OF THE REPUBLIC OF ANGOLA, 1992, [www] http://aceproject.org/ero-en/regions/africa/AO/angconst [opens new window] (accessed 10 Mar 2010).
INTERPARLIAMENTARY UNION (IPU) 1992 "ANGOLA: Parliamentary Chamber: Assembleia nacional elections held in 1992 ", [www] http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/arc/2007_92.htm [opens new window] (accessed 9 Mar 2009).
INTERPARLIAMENTARY UNION (IPU) 2009 "ANGOLA: Assembleia nacional (National Assembly)", [www] http://www.ipu.org/parline-e/reports/2007_A.htm [opens new window] (accessed 9 Mar 2009).
UNITED NATIONS COMMITTEE ON ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN 2004 "Press Release WOM/1459: 660th & 661st Meetings (AM & PM)", [www] http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/wom1459.doc.htm. [MS Word document] (accessed 5 March 2008).
VAN KESSEL, I 1999 "Is Democracy Good for Women? The Impact of Democratic Transitions on the Representation of Women in the National Parliaments of Southern Africa", Women on the rise in politics: Leaders for the new Southern African Millennium Conference, 14 December 1999, Netherlands institute for Southern Africa & Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, [www] http://www.niza.nl/uk/press/docs/women_onthe_rise/lecture_vankessel.htm (page offline 21 Jan 2010).