All analyses indicate that the key to change is in political party democratization, and due to partitocratic practices they are becoming actual centres of power to the detriment of democracy, functioning of institutions, and rule of law.
Dr. Lejla Ramic-Mesihovic
Poor representation of women in politics, and in all decision-making processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina more generally, is neither an endemic phenomenon nor a recent one. But neither are the processes of changing practices and raising awareness of possible better and different ways of running things in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They have lasted for at least 76 years and have had their better and worse days. Even in socio-political contexts like the current one, in which Bosnia and Herzegovina aspires to move closer to the European Union and international commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the mismatch between the declarative and the demonstrative has led to important civilisational orientations like democratisation losing their edge.
It is encouraging that, in the meantime, anti-discriminatory behaviours were increasingly exposed and brought to absurdity in BiH society, and frameworks for systemic action and the creation of public policies now have an increasing obligation to be guided by the principle of equality of all citizens, regardless of their biological and socially attributed facts. This is reflected in a slight but consistent increase in the number of women elected at local level government. For example, in the 2016 elections, 18.5% of women were elected, and in 2020, 19.6 percent of women were elected to legislative government.
The situation is significantly worse when it comes to positions like mayoral ones which don’t subscribe to the 40 percent quota we have on the lists for the legislature, nor does it apply there. This is an apparent example of how political parties comply with the presumed preference of the electorate, which in BiH context inevitably goes to the detriment of women. Almost as a rule, the inequality in support and visibility of candidates in the pre-election process follows an almost implicit gender line.
All analyses indicate that the key to change is in political party democratization, and due to partitocratic practices they are becoming actual centres of power to the detriment of democracy, functioning of institutions, and rule of law
The rules of the game are slowly changing. Women are increasingly aware that participation in socio-political life is not something to wait to be offered, but that opportunities need to be created and taken advantage of. There is a growing awareness that the concept of gender equality inevitably and irreversibly redefines power structures, in a way that the resistance of these structures is becoming more visible and bizarre.
The story of the quality of female political representation in public discourse is usually binary, only partially grounded, and additionally enables discriminatory behaviours. Fortunately, what we are seeing in the day-to-day, but also civilisationally at this stage, are numerous examples both globally and locally which leave less and less room for gender-biased and discriminatory speculations. The rules of the game are changing. The (lack of) political culture and discriminatory practices are becoming more and more recognised and unacceptable. Moves made as a result of ignorance, spite, misogyny and fear of change are increasingly detected by the public.
On the other hand, achievements of female-led teams and countries are increasingly visible globally. In BiH, we are proud of women in politics who build bridges between people, work for a better future and support other women and generations to come. Because that’s what matter most.
Dr. Lejla Ramic-Mesihovic, political scientist, head of the Women in Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina project