Another possible law reform that we surveyed is the introduction of gender quotas. Currently, the representation of women in the newly elected 2009 parliament is at an abysmal rate of 3.25%, this is down from an already low 4.68% rate in 2005. The representation of women in local municipalities is even more limited, standing at a tiny 2%. When we asked people if they supported the introduction of gender quotas in elected bodies in Lebanon, the findings were favorable.
- Over two-thirds of Lebanese women (67%) support the introduction of gender quotas in parliament. Slightly fewer men (65%) support them but still the proportions are quite similar (Figure 3).
- Of those women who oppose quotas, half believe quotas are unfair as they are against the principal of equal opportunity (Figure 4). Ten percent think politicians should be elected based on qualifications not sex, and 5% believe women are less qualified than men.
- Other cited reasons fall more into a stereotypical view of women’s roles in society: 18% oppose quotas because they think women have no place in politics and 8% believe a woman’s place is at home (Figure 4).
- The top three reasons cited by women for supporting quotas are the belief that women should have the same rights as men (45%), that women should have a role in political life (29%), and that women are just as qualified and as educated as men (26%) (Figure 5).
- Looking at opinions on the introduction of gender quotas by sect (Figure 6), we find that the level of support is highest among Druze and Shia women, with 75% of them supporting gender quotas compared with a 66% support among Christian women and 60% among Sunni women. This may be a reflection of the lack of representation of Shia and Druze women in parliament and their low levels of representation on municipal councils. It must be mentioned, however, that since the notion of gender quotas is somewhat complex, at least 4% of women in each sect said they either don’t know or refused to answer. Among Shia women, the percentage of women who did not know or refused was at an even higher level (8%).
- Among men, the highest level of support for gender quotas is among the Druze (78%), yet it must be cautioned that the sample of Druze men is too small to allow reliable inferences. Meanwhile, 68% of Christian men support gender quotas, compared with 66% of Shia men and 56% of Sunni men.
- Overall, while the majority of women and men of all sects support the introduction of gender quotas in Lebanon, Sunni men and women have the lowest level of support when compared to other sects.Unlike opinions on the civil marriage law, opinions on gender quotas are not sensitive to education levels. While women with a partial or complete university education have a slightly higher level of support for the introduction of gender quotas than women who are less educated, the difference is not statistically significant.
- Not surprisingly, women who have expressed an interest in matters of politics and government are more likely to be in favor of introducing gender quotas than women who are not interested in these matters (73% vs. 60% respectively).