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The Gender Gap in Brazilian Politics and the Role of the Electoral Court

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 February 2019

Luciana de Oliveira Ramos
São Paulo Law School of Fundação Getulio Vargas
Virgílio Afonso da Silva
University of São Paulo


Like many other countries, Brazil has adopted gender quotas in elections for legislatures at all levels of the federation. However, Brazilian gender quotas have been ineffective at increasing women's participation in politics. Authors usually point to reasons related to the electoral system and party structure. This article analyzes a variable that is rarely considered: the role of the Electoral Court. We argue that the quality and intensity of the control exercised by an electoral court, when called upon to decide on the enforcement of the gender quota law, can influence the efficacy of this policy. We show that, in general, the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court tends to foster the participation of women in politics. However, based on two divides—between easy and difficult cases and between cases with low and high impact—we argue that in the realm of gender quotas, this court takes a rather restrained stance in those cases considered both difficult and with high impact.

Research Article
Copyright © The Women and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association 2019

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Early drafts of this article were presented and discussed at a seminar of the research cluster Constitution, Politics & Institutions (University of São Paulo, Brazil); at the seminar Resisting Women's Political Leadership: Theories, Data, Solutions (Rutgers University); at the research workshop of the FGV Direito São Paulo (Getulio Vargas Foundation, Brazil); and at the XIII Congreso Iberoamericano de Derecho Constitucional (UNAM, Mexico). We would like to thank the organizers for having invited us and all the participants for their valuable comments, as well as friends and colleagues that read the drafts in different occasions, especially Mona Lena Krook, Marta Rodriguez Machado, Vitor Marchetti, Rafael Mafei, Jennifer Piscopo, Diogo Rais, Ligia Pinto Sica, Adriane Sanctis, Guilherme Klafke, Livia Gil Guimarães, Isadora Almeida, Carolina Marinho, and Artur Péricles Monteiro.



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