IAMCR OCS, IAMCR 2011 - Istanbul

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Media visibility of the Portuguese parliamentary deputies during the Guterrismo period (1999/2002). The case of the Parity Bill.
Ana Santos Cabrera

Last modified: 01-04-2011


This paper is part of an ongoing research project funded by the Portuguese State, called “Feminine Politics – Gender policies and strategies oriented toward the visibility of female members of Parliament in Portugal”, focuses on women’s representation and gender issues in the parliament throughout three political cycles of the Portuguese democracy, spanning from 1975 to 2002.
Researchers had highlighted that women's participation in politics enriches and makes democracy more diverse, in spite the fact that women have to overcome obstacles to be elected and to have a “voice” in the public sphere (cfr. Ballington and Karam 2005; Sawer, Marian et al. 2006; Paxton and Hughes 2007; Norris and Inglehart 2001).
In order to grasp how the press covered the female parliamentary initiatives and the success of their strategies for public visibility, we propose to focus on several relevant happenings, with media repercussion, related to women’s universe and interests, that took place during the timeframe of research. We use the category epiphenomena to designate such happenings. We focus on one epiphenomena which took place at the end of the nineties, during the second term of socialist António Guterres as head of Government: the parliamentary debate sparked by the first parity bill. The socialists contended that the introduction of an affirmative action policy as regards the gender composition of parliamentary candidates’ lists was required by the underrepresentation of women in politics and particularly in the legislative house. As the issue has received major press coverage, we shall focus on the female MPs media strategies in relation to the parity law, as well as in the portrayal of those actors and of the issue itself by the national press. We conclude that the initiative had a successful outcome, although its results only became apparent after the approval of the second parity bill, in 2006.