Women's participation in decision-making can improve social issues

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Gender equality in political participation is a fundamental aspect of modern democratic governance. Under international standards, both men and women should have equal rights and opportunities to participate fully in all aspects and at all levels of political processes. In practice, however, it is often more challenging for women to access and exercise these rights. Therefore, International Women’s Day is celebrated to protect their rights.

In Mongolia, women’s social activities have been expanding, however, their advancement is still behind in decision making processes of governmental and private sector organizations, especially in politics.

In accordance with the Constitution of Mongolia, an eligible citizen has the right to participate in elections without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, language, race, sex, social origin, status, wealth, occupation, position, religion, opinion or education. It upholds the fundamental equality before the law of women and men and recognizes the vital role of women in nation building. This issue is also stated in international conventions. However, whether this right is exercised in Mongolia is another matter.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, Mongolia ranks 79th out of 153 countries in the Gender Gap Index (0.706) and is above the world average (0.69), but it is down 21 places from the previous year. The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. Mongolia ranks 29th in terms of economic participation (0.751 points), 71st in terms of education (0.993 points), 1st in terms of health (0.980 points), and 120th in terms of political power and participation (0.102 points).

Mongolia ranked 42nd in the Gender Gap Index in 2006, 58th in 2018 and 79th in 2019, mainly due to a 50-point decline in education and an 8-point decline in political power and participation. This shows that women’s participation in politics and decision-making remains low. This setback is hampering Mongolia’s ability to meet the development goals promised in the Paris Agreement. Four years ago, Mongolia was one of the countries that pledged to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

Women’s political participation in Mongolia increased by 5 percent since 2010, but it is insufficient that their participation in decision-making process is at 27 percent. In short, ensuring gender equality for sustainable development is one of the first tasks for our country.

Historically, State Baga Khural (Lower House of Parliament) with 50 members had two female members from 1990 to 1992. Following the adoption of the new Constitution of Mongolia and the transition to a parliamentary system, 293 candidates were nominated in the first parliamentary elections in 1992, and 76 lawmakers were elected, out of which, only four members or 5.3 percent were women.

In the 1996 and 2000 parliamentary elections, 1.5 percent to 2.6 percent of all candidates were women, but since 2004 parliamentary and local elections, the proportion of women candidates has increased, reaching a record high of 32 percent in 2012. Particularly, since the enactment of the Law on Promotion of Gender Quality in 2012, 174 out of 544 candidates that competed in the parliamentary election were women, of whom 11 were elected.

Article 10.1.1 of the Law on Promotion of Gender Quality stipulates that representation of one sex (female or male) among appointed public political officials shall be not less than 15 percent in the government, provinces and the capital city, 20 percent in districts, 25 percent in soums and 30 percent in khoroos, while Article 10.1.2 states, “Among public administration officials, one gender should represent 15 percent of heads of ministries and government agencies, 20 percent of heads of other central organizations, 30 percent of governors of provinces, the capital city, soums and districts, and at least 40 percent of heads of province, capital city, soum and district governor’s offices.”

In 2016, of the 498 candidates, 129 were women and 13 were elected. In the 2020 parliamentary election, 606 candidates competed, with 13 out of 151 women nominated were elected to Parliament. Women take 60 percent of executive state positions and 30 percent of mid-level executive officials in Mongolia. This shows that the activity and participation of young people and women has become more active in recent years, and the law is proving effecting to certain extent in eliminating the gender gap.

The Mongolian National Statistics Office reported that women’s participation in politics is 12.5 percent at the ministerial level, and 38 percent at the deputy ministerial level. In particular, the newly formed government has the largest number of female members, four. Minister of Labor and Social Welfare A.Ariunzaya was re-appointed, while Ch.Nomin is in charge of the cultural sector, and N.Urtnasan is working as minister of environment and tourism. Former Deputy Minister B.Battsetseg was appointed as minister of foreign affairs.

    Moreover, on October 22, 2020, for the first time, a female lawmaker chaired a parliamentary session, which was a historic event for Parliament. Particularly, Deputy Speaker of Parliament S.Odontuya became the first female Parliament member to chair the plenary session. Former lawmaker S.Oyun previously served as deputy speaker of Parliament, but did not chair a plenary session.

In addition, women are expressing their willingness to work at any level of politics. Last January, former lawmaker Ts.Oyungerel announced to compete in her party’s candidacy for the presidential election. There were 16 candidates running for the presidency, in the past with only one woman running in the 2013 presidential election. Particularly, member of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party N.Udval competed for presidency and received 6.5 percent of the vote in 2013. Women serve as heads of state or government in only 22 countries, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader.

However, society was divided on whether it is right or wrong to have a female president. Some Mongolian female politicians said that women leaders of all generations have always been ready to become president. In particular, lawmaker S.Bayarsaikhan emphasized that women leaders were always ready to become president, while parliamentarian Kh.Bulgantuya said during the Syndicate Talk interview, “The first Constitution of 1924 declared that men and women are equal in all social and economic spheres. I think Mongolians have long accepted this. Gender is not important to be elected
as president, but a person’s knowledge, skills, work, and policies are important.”

Although such progresses were made, there was no change in increasing women’s parliamentary participation in 2020. In particular, during the discussion of the Law on Parliamentary Election, female lawmakers proposed to raise the minimum level of women’s participation from 20 percent to 30 percent in the current Election Law, but this was rejected.

Some experts believe that the main reasons for women’s low participation in politics are sexual discrimination in the political process and flaws in the electoral system, concurring with researchers and women’s rights organizations.

Moreover, one of the reasons is that each political party puts low priority on women and there is a gap between male and female candidates in securing campaign funding and other resources as well as in obtaining internal support from their party.

To eliminate political sexual discrimination, the electoral system was changed to a mixed system, requiring political parties to nominate at least 20 percent of women candidates in 2012. However, only 14.5 percent of women in Mongolia reached the decision-making level in the 2012 elections.

Women’s representation is crucial in the realization of development goals for it is through their representation that their voices are heard, and their issues, concerns, and perspectives are made an integral part of decision and policy-making processes that affect their lives. International researchers emphasize that gender equality at all levels not only contributes to
long-term sustainable development and the balanced solution of social problems, but also to the economy.

Misheel Lkhasuren