Gender Bias in Liberal Political Theory on Participation and Representation

Feminist literature extensively discusses how women have been excluded from formal politics and decision-making processes in liberal theory, based on assumptions that women lack the rationality required for democratic deliberation (Pateman 1988; Okin 1979). Consequently, women's exclusion had been linked to an absence of public deliberation on and from political agendas issues such as, child welfare, reproductive health, and domestic violence, and so on. Analysis of women's exclusion in liberal theory led to an intuitive conclusion that the inclusion of women in electoral or decision-making bodies would make a significant difference in drawing attention to these neglected issues (Dovi 2006). Increased women's presence in public office was identified as a major pathway for promotion of gender equity concerns in policymaking. This led to the emphasis on gender quotas, the creation of national gender machineries in gender and development discourse (Tadros 2011). However, this linear connection made in development discourse between women's access (consultation in various citizen's/ policy forums and spaces) and presence (representation) in electoral/ decision-making bodies leading to influence has been critiqued by many feminists (see Goetz and Nyamu-Musembi 2008 for details). While women's representation and participation in political parties and policy places are necessary conditions for gender equitable outcomes, they alone are not sufficient.

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