Presidential elections were held in Benin on 6 March 2016.
The elections were initially scheduled on 28 February 2016, but there was a postponement due to logistical constraints. The President is elected through the two-round system and 83 seats in the National Assembly are elected by proportional representation in 24 multi-member constituencies. A total of 33 candidates ran during the first round and among them only 2 were female: Marie Elise Gbedo and Elisabeth Agbossaga. A second round was held on 20 March and Talon won the election with 65% of the votes to Zinsou’s 34%.
Women in Benin have limited access to politics. In the 2011 parliament elections, only 8 out of the 83 seats were held by women. According to theworld classification of participation of women in national legislatures, Benin ranks 122nd (193 countries total). This could be explained due to the absence of gender quotas. In 2010, the Constitutional Court decided that gender quotas contradicted the principle of equality of men and women before the law. Then, a second attempt to establish a quota for women was launched but it has not yet been put before parliament.
Women's Political Participation
Although the Beninese Constitution provides for equality for women in the political sphere, women experience extensive discrimination because of societal attitudes and resistance to behavioral change. As it was already mentioned, there were two female candidates out of the 33 running for president. Marie Elise Gbedo , who won 0.19% of the vote, based her campaign on the promotion of the eradication of youth’s unemployment and the fight against corruption. The second female candidate was Elisabeth Agbossaga who is the president of the Union party. Finally, Gbedo won only 0.12% of the votes probably because she had publicly expressed her support for women’s rights, which in a Benin’s conservative society was not well perceived.
In 1992, Benin ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In March 2009 the Government of Benin adopted a National Policy for Gender Promotion, which aims to achieve, by 2025, equality and equity between the sexes with a view towards sustainable human development. In January 2012, a law on the prevention and punishment of violence against women was enacted. Despite these efforts, domestic violence against women persists and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is practiced on girls and women from infancy up to 30 years old. In rural areas women traditionally occupy a subordinate role and are responsible for much of the hard labor on subsistence farms. During 2010, the government granted microcredit to the poor, especially to women in rural areas, to help them develop income-generating activities.
While the law does not prevent women from participating in politics, it could provide better conditions to raise the participation and representation of women. The introduction of gender quotas is a crucial step as it could have a significant impact in the development of the country. In addition, although laws provide for equal rights between men and women, their enforcement is ineffective which leads to deeply rooted discriminatory traditions.