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05TEGUCIGALPA1612 2005-08-03 16:50:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Tegucigalpa
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1. In light of the lack of significant numbers of women
participating in Honduran politics as candidates, the country
adopted several electoral laws to encourage and facilitate
women's participation in the electoral process. The 2000 Law
of Gender Equality mandated that 30 percent of all candidates
nominated for public office by recognized political parties
be women, something supplemented by the 2004 Electoral Law
mandating a quota of no less than 30 percent participation by
female candidates on ballots for congress and mayors/city

2. These laws have not had the effects their proponents
envisioned due to a failure to detail which positions will be
included in that 30 percent minimum, meaning that many women
are alternates and not main candidates for office. At the
end of 2004, there were only 10 congresswomen (and 12 female
alternates) in the 128-seat legislature. The dominant
traditional parties of Honduras, the National and Liberal
Parties, were unable to surpass the national quota of 30
percent in February's primary elections. In fact, the
National Party was right at 30 percent, while the Liberal
Party fell short of the minimum by 1 percent.

3. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of women's
suffrage in Honduras. Over these fifty years, there has been
only a slight increase in the number of women elected or
appointed to top political positions in Honduras (reftel).
Two of the major factors critics give for the lack of female
participation are discrimination and anonymity. Political
discrimination means women are less likely to receive
sponsorship from party "bigwigs" to carry out campaigns. It
is more difficult for women in politics to receive donations
and contributions than their male counterparts. Thus, it is
harder to gain publicity and move out of the shadow of
anonymity. The women who have made it in the political
sphere are those with money, connections, and already
recognized public personas. There are other women who do not
have the public recognition, but who have vowed to fight to
ensure that Honduran women have a voice in politics.

4. Comment: Legally mandated quotas are unlikely to greatly
increase women's participation in Honduran politics. Only
when female political activists and candidates demand a
larger role in the electoral process and when female voters
support them in large numbers (anecdotal reports indicate
that many female primary voters split their tickets among
women candidates on different slates) will significant
advancement by women candidates be achieved. In the words of
Liberal Party female activist, Luz Ernestina Mejia, "Women
must make a space for themselves within the established
parties and their movements." End Comment.