Women in Politics

Considerable progress has been made in women's rights during the last 100 years. While some countries have achieved near parity in electing women to national legislatures, others are lagging far behind. We wonder: Which country has the largest percentage of women in its national parliament?

A. Sweden
B. United States
C. Cuba
D. Rwanda

A. Sweden is not correct.

For a long time, Sweden was the leader of the Inter-Parliamentary Union's ranking of women in parliament. But in the IPU's February 2008 worldwide survey — which ranks countries according to the share of women serving in their nation's lower house of parliament — Sweden no longer ranks first.

However, Sweden still ranks first among highly industrialized nations, with 47% female representation. It is followed by its fellow Nordic states Finland (42%), Denmark (38%) and Norway (36%).

B. United States is not correct.

Although many people have long pointed to the United States as a leader in terms of historic achievements for women's rights, it lags in electing women to political office.

Seventy-three of the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives are women. With a share of 16.8%, the United States is in 70th place globally. The representation of women in the upper U.S. legislative chamber, the Senate, is slightly lower, at 16%.

The United States ranks behind Bolivia (16.9%) and just ahead of El Salvador (16.7%). In comparison, the Iraqi parliament has a 26% share of female representation, ranking 32nd in the world.

C. Cuba is not correct.

Cuba consistently ranks among the top ten in terms of female parliamentary representation. In the latest survey, it came in third, with a 43% share of women in its national parliament.

In comparison, China ranks 52nd, with women comprising 21% of its national parliament — while Russia ranks 83rd, at 14%.

D. Rwanda is correct.

Following the October 2003 elections, Rwanda tops the list for the highest proportion of female members of parliament — with a rate of 49%. Of the 80 seats in the lower house, 39 are held by women.

Other African countries with a high percentage of female members of parliament include Mozambique (35%) in 12th place — and South Africa (33%) in 15th place.

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