SEVENTY per cent of the public believes that there are too few women in Slovak politics, a survey released on April 24 indicated.
Although women constitute over 51 per cent of the country's population, and in terms of education are equal to their male counterparts, they are heavily under-represented in top politics, and their political voice is almost unheard.
The telephone survey, carried out by the Polis Slovakia agency from April 21-23 on 1,000 respondents, also showed that almost 57 per cent of respondents would welcome a law setting quotas for representation of women in political posts.
Since mid-February, the Interior Ministry has been working on a change in the election law which would force political parties to make one out of every three nominees on their candidate lists a woman. Parties that failed could be fined by the Finance Ministry.
Ministry spokesperson Jozef Sitár said on April 29 that "we're still working on the law, but we aim to finish it, and if the political will exists in parliament, the law should take effect before the upcoming [September] elections."
The proposal, if approved, would introduce a 33.3 per cent quota system for women. At the moment only 14 per cent of members of parliament (MPs) are female, and only 2 out of 20 cabinet members are women.
Even in its early form, however, the law has met resistance, and it remains unclear whether it will be accepted for parliamentary debate at all.
Even some female politicians have opposed the measure. Oľga Keltošová, the most popular Slovak female politician according to the Polis survey (see chart, this page) and an MP for the country's most popular party, the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), said on April 28: "Introducing a quota in the legislation won't solve anything. Women must be able to push such measures through their internal party statutes. If they can't make it inside their parties, no law will help."
Female politicians said that while women were better represented at lower levels of politics, few made it to top party posts.
Sociologist Iveta Radičová explained the phenomenon as the result of an enduring division of sex roles in Slovak families, a tradition that would not change "as long as there continues to be lack of social services affordable for the majority of society".
She agreed with Keltošová that changing parties' statutes would be publicly more acceptable than introducing quotas, which would be seen as "positive discrimination".