According to this document (page 12):

Table 1 indicates that, of the 30 EU/EEA countries, five – Belgium, France, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain – have introduced quotas by law that are binding for all political parties.

The Equal Opportunity principle states that:

Equal opportunity is a stipulation that all people should be treated similarly, unhampered by artificial barriers or prejudices or preferences, except when particular distinctions can be explicitly justified. [...] not go to persons for arbitrary or irrelevant reasons, such as circumstances of birth, upbringing, having well-connected relatives or friends, religion, sex, ethnicity, race, caste,[5] or involuntary personal attributes such as disability, age, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

A legal form of this principle is The Equality Act 2010 which

prohibits discrimination in employment or in the provision of training and education on the grounds of any of the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Question: how comes that electoral gender quotas systems apparently break the Equal Opportunity principle?

Important note: This question is not about pros/cons of Electoral Gender Quota Systems which are detailed in this document at page 18 and are off-topic for Politics.SE.

  • 1
    What is the question? It is well stablished that affirmative action with the purpose of increase participation of underrepresented demographics does not break the principle of equal opportunity, as the underrepresented demographic is so because its members have less opportunities to begin with (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_government#Quotas)
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 15:11
  • @IllusiveBrian - I have removed irrelevant part of the note. However, I insisted on avoiding the debate, as it is not ok for Politics.SE site.
    – Alexei
    Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 15:52
  • @Alexei Yep, I agree with your edit. I am trying to figure out a way to better phrase your question, possibly "How are gender quotas justified by lawmakers given that they appear to violate the Equal Opportunity Principle?" Commented Mar 24, 2017 at 15:56

2 Answers 2


This is called affirmative action.

When politics realize that a certain demographic is discriminated for reasons which are beyond the control of politics, "Equal opportunity" is restored by giving that demographic an artificial advantage. Mandatory gender quotas are one way to ensure equal opportunity in areas where on gender is underrepresented.

Now you could argue about which demographics need how much of what kind of affirmative action. And you could also argue about if there are really no feasible policies which could eliminate the underlying reasons for the under-representation of a demographic. But that's a topic for a more debate-oriented website.


This is a perfect example of why Equality and Fairness are not the same thing. Equality of outcomes is antithetical to Equality of Opportunity. The two cannot be reconciled. Given Philipp's answer, it is impossible to maintain fairness (true Equality of Opportunity) in the presence of supposedly compensatory factors such as affirmative action. Affirmative action is merely institutionalized discrimination. Alleging "unfairness" or "imbalance" as a rationale to fabricate inequality of opportunity derails the notion of fairness and results in destabilization and chaos. On the other hand, denying all affirmative action programs and instead affirming true equality of opportunity has yielded the greatest prosperity ever known to humankind.

  • Your sources are very shaky (the revolution resulted in chaos for other reasons than an attempt at equality, we didn't behead people just because they were rich). From what i saw, there is good evidence that income inequality actually hurts the economy long term (notably by reducing the circulation of currency) link There is also the moral argument that in a society that follows such things as Jim Crow's Laws, opportunities are already artificially skewed and should be partially fixed Commented May 22, 2019 at 10:08
  • @CaptainAwesomeMcCoolName France's Revolution became chaotic because it devolved into a matter of revenge. Whom to behead started out as a political matter of reverse oppression and it continued that same way, merely with the tables turned as different tyrants grabbed for power. This trap was inevitable because the unqualified term "Equality" is neither good nor bad. It begs: "Equality of what?" and so it was left to subjective preference. The American Revolution led to greater human rights because its fathers sought fair treatment of all humans, not nebulous and unqualified "Equality".
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 19:13
  • @CaptainAwesomeMcCoolName Booker T. Washington in his autobiography Up From Slavery said: "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. It is at the bottom of life we must begin and not at the top; Nor should we permit our grievances to overshadow our opportunities." He proved himself far more successful than his contemporaries who tried to make their living by demanding reparations.
    – pygosceles
    Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 19:16

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