How can Germany get more women into parliament?

The German Federal Eagle is seen behind the podium at the Bundestag in Berlin
The German Federal Eagle is seen behind the podium at the Bundestag in Berlin. Although the proportion of women in parliament increased after last Sunday's election, several politicians want to see far more. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)
Women are still in the minority in the new Bundestag – they now account for 34 percent of parliament following last Sunday's general election, an increase of just three percentage points. Several prominent German politicians have some ideas on how to redress the balance.

The proportion of women in the Bundestag increasing from 31 to 34 percent was “much too modest” to see it as good news, Green Party politician Claudia Roth, said in conversation with TV studio ARD-Hauptstadtstudio.

If equal rights were what was at stake, then Roth was convinced that we don’t need “slightly more equal rights, but equal rights”. After all, women make up 51 percent of Germany’s population.

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But it’s not just about the numbers for Roth, who has been in politics for several decades. She said it also makes a difference when women sit on committees that tend to be male-dominated, such as the defence committee, and when men sit on the family committee.

German Green Party politician and vice-president of the Bundestag Claudia Roth delivers a speech during the electoral congress of Germany’s Green Party, in Berlin on September 19th, 2021. Roth wants to see more women in parliament. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)

Around half of the Green Party’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag are women and the party has a quota written in to its constitution, which Roth believes is a recipe for success.

Many capable young women in the new parliamentary group were able to use the quota as “a key that opens the door for them so they can show what they’re capable of”, she said.

Free Democrats (FPD) politician Gyde Jensen also wants to see more women in parliament. Currently, the liberal party’s parliamentary group has far fewer women than the Green Party, and also less than the Left Party and the Social Democrats (SPD). The FDP doesn’t have a quota for women.

Jensen believes that to get more women into parliament, a political goal also needs to be set so that more women feel that politics is something that’s relevant to them, she told ARD.

CDU politician Franziska Hoppermann also thought grassroots work was important: “We need to get women enthusiastic about politics and give them space to get involved, in the same way we massively increased the proportion of women involved in local politics,” said Hoppermann, who is regional chair of the party’s Women’s Union in Hamburg and one of the new members of parliament.

Just under a fourth – 36 – of the conservative party’s new Bundestag seats are occupied by women. Only far-right party AfD has fewer women percentage-wise.

To address this low level, chair of the CDU’s Women’s Union Annette Widmann-Mauz is calling for structural changes in the party, including debating quotas for women and electoral lists with equal numbers of men and women. Hoppermann also supports these.

But voluntary solutions aren’t enough for Claudia Roth. She wants to see this enshrined in law in the form of a constitutional parity law: “If we carry on as we are, we still won’t have achieved it [equality] in 100 years,” she said.

In the previous legislative period, a similar initiative was blocked by the CDU and CSU, said Roth. 

But the CDU’s Hopperman and the FDP’s Jensen were not sure this was realistic.

In some states, including Brandenburg and Thuringia, the parties are supposed to be obliged by law to have equal numbers of men and women on the electoral lists already. However, the respective state constitutional courts declared those laws unconstitutional.

READ ALSO: Brandenburg approves landmark law to increase number of women in politics

This showed how questionable the whole thing was in terms of constitutional law, Jensen said.

“But I share the political goal of being as diverse as possible,” she added.

The Greens, the SPD and the Left support a parity law at federal level, so it remains to be seen what is decided by the next coalition government and, indeed, what that coalition looks like.

The Social Democrats became the largest parliamentary group in the newly elected Bundestag after last week’s election, with 25.7 percent of the vote, followed by the CDU/CSU and the Greens, but it could take months before a new coalition government is formed.

READ ALSO: German parties meet as coalition haggling begins


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