gender parity and quotas in italy: a convoluted reform process

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Strathclyde]On: 09 October 2014, At: 09:47Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    West European PoliticsPublication details, including instructions for authorsand subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/fwep20

    Gender Parity and Quotas inItaly: A Convoluted ReformProcessElisabetta Palici di SuniPublished online: 27 Feb 2012.

    To cite this article: Elisabetta Palici di Suni (2012) Gender Parity and Quotas inItaly: A Convoluted Reform Process, West European Politics, 35:2, 380-394, DOI:10.1080/01402382.2011.648013

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2011.648013

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  • Gender Parity and Quotas in Italy:A Convoluted Reform Process

    ELISABETTA PALICI DI SUNI

    In 1995, two years after the adoption of gender quota laws, the Italian ConstitutionalCourt declared these laws to be unconstitutional. The Constitution was subsequentlyreformed in order to make way for new quota legislation. Such reforms came in late andin a contradictory way. The Constitution was first modified in 2001 to allow regions toadopt quota measures to enhance womens political representation at the regional leveland then in 2003 to allow similar measures to enhance womens political representationat the national and European levels. Thus far, quotas have been introduced only in someregions and for European elections. Consequently, the 2001 and 2003 constitutionalreforms have had a limited impact on legislative implementation measures and thus onthe percentage of women in elected assemblies.

    Less than one year after their formal enfranchisement in 1945, the firstwomen elected to the 19461947 Constituent Assembly promoted theinsertion of some very innovative provisions on womens rights into theItalian Constitution. Nevertheless, these constitutional provisions wereeither not enforced or enforced with much delay. Given the original wordingof the 1948 Constitution, Italy could have launched quota reforms withoutthe need for other ad hoc constitutional provisions. However, theParliament and the Constitutional Courts narrow interpretation of therelevant constitutional provisions prevented Italy from spearheading suchreforms. Instead, Italy ended up tackling quota legislation not only laterthan other European countries, but also in quite a contradictory andambivalent manner.

    To date, most of the literature on Italys quota reforms, constitutionalamendments, and national and regional legislation tends to be in Italian,1

    with the exception of Della Portas (2003) and Guadagninis (2005; 2007)writings on the political debates surrounding these reforms. This article aimsat clarifying the political and, above all, legal aspects of the Italian reforms,

    Correspondence Address: elisabetta.disuni@unito.it

    West European Politics,Vol. 35, No. 2, 380394, March 2012

    ISSN 0140-2382 Print/1743-9655 Online 2012 Taylor & Francishttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01402382.2011.648013

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  • which are not very well-known among Anglo-Saxon researchers, andcomparing them with those of other countries that appear similar on thesurface, but where deep differences can also be found. In particular, thearticle focuses on the legal meaning of the constitutional and legislativereforms as well as the respective interpretations of the courts and policy-makers, who have to promote and pass legislation to bring aboutconstitutional provisions. In the end, the main argument advanced here isthat: (a) Italys reforms on gender parity are legally contradictory; (b) thiscontradiction is due to parties lack of political will; (c) as a consequence,Italys path to quota reforms has been quite convoluted.

    From Suffragism to the Constitution

    Italian suffragism began several decades before Italian women obtained theright to vote. For the first time in 1877 and then again in 1906, together withother women, Anna Maria Mozzoni presented a womens suffrage petitionto Parliament. In 1906, Maria Montessori invited all women to register tovote because the electoral law did not expressly forbid it. Except for theCourt of Appeal of Ancona, all Courts of Appeal and the Corte diCassazione2 denied that women had this right.3 Several bills to extend theright to vote to women, including the Minghetti bill (1861), the Peruzzi bill(1863), and the Morelli bill (1867), had been introduced in the first years ofthe Kingdom of Italy. However, none of these were passed. In 1912, as thelaw enfranchising all men was adopted, some MPs pointed out thecontradiction of allowing ignorant men to vote and prohibiting learnedwomen from doing so.4 The 1925 law that recognised womens right to votein administrative elections quickly became irrelevant when the fascist regimeabolished all elections. Following the demise of the fascist regime, decreeNo. 23 of 1945 provided for only womens right to vote. The rights ofsuffrage and eligibility were recognised by decree No. 74 of 1946 regardingthe elections of the Constituent Assembly. By that time, womensenfranchisement was perceived as part of the natural evolution of societyrather than the outcome of suffrage activists efforts (Galoppini 1980: 143).Nonetheless, many people feared the prospect of the womens vote,including Communist Party activists who blamed women for the electoraldefeat of the Left in 1946 and 1948 (Rossi-Doria 1996: 257).

    In 1946, 21 women were elected to the Constituent Assembly (3.7 percent) (Morelli 2007). These women played a fundamental role in theformulation of innovative constitutional rules on equality and womensrights. As a result, the Italian Constitution ensures both the protection ofmotherhood and also equality between men and women. Traditional laws toprotect working mothers had been in place since the 1902 law No. 242,modified by the 1910 law No. 520 and by the 1934 law No. 1347. Muchmore innovative were the equality provisions, which some deputies founddifficult to accept. In particular, equality in the judiciary met with much

    Gender Parity and Quotas in Italy 381

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  • resistance, with some observing that women were not cut out to becomejudges.5 Nonetheless, the women deputies were able to insert a balancebetween protection and equality into the Constitution.

    Since Italys new Constitution came into force in 1948, Italian legislatorshave been much more committed to ensure the effective protection ofwomen at the expense of equality. For instance, new laws to protect workingmothers were passed in 1950 and thereafter (the 1950 law No. 860 and thenthe 1971 law No. 1204), but provisions on equality were not enforced for along time. While Article 51 prescribes that all citizens of either sex areeligible for public office on equal terms, women have been able to becomejudges only since 1963. Although Article 29 asserts the moral and legalequality of spouses, only in 1975 was the provision of the civil codeestablishing the husband as the head of the family repealed. Article 37 statesthat working women shall have the same rights and, for the same work, thesame wages as working men, but only in 1977 was a statute passed ensuringequal pay. In short, the innovative spirit of the Constituent Assembly,together with the pluralism and the mutual respect that prevailed among allthe parties that had taken part in the Italian Resistance to fascism, came toan end once the Constituent Assembly completed its work.

    Electoral Law and Quotas

    From 1948 until 1990, the Democratic Christian Party governed Italy withsmaller parties due to the unwritten agreement (conventio ad excludendum)which excluded the Communist Party, Ita

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