Political Inclusion of Marginalized Groups: Indigenous Reservations and Gender Parity in Bolivia

  • Citation: Htun, Mala, and Juan Pablo Ossa. “Political Inclusion of Marginalized Groups: Indigenous Reservations and Gender Parity in Bolivia.” Politics, Groups and Identities 1, no. 1 (2013): 4–25.
    • Topics:
    • Movements for Inclusion
    • Keywords:
    • South America
    • Bolivia
    • gender
    • Indigenous politics
    • minority representation
    • Latin American politics
    • affirmative action
    • ethnicity
    • intersectionality
    • multiple inequalities

Focusing on the case of Bolivia, this paper analyzes when and why marginalized groups gain access to political power. The country’s experience is puzzling. Though we would have expected the indigenous-led government that came to power in early 2006 to be more receptive to the claims of indigenous movements than to women, the opposite occurred. Indigenous groups received a mere 5% of parliamentary seats and women got a gender parity law. What explains these different results of women’s and indigenous demands for political inclusion? Adopting an intersectional approach, we view marginalized groups not as a single category but as a collection of categories. Rather than a premise of politics, group unity is a political achievement. While women overcame divisions between white, urban feminists and indigenous women from popular sectors to lobby for gender parity, the indigenous movement remained divided over reserved seats and the project of indigenous autonomy more generally. Our analysis helps explain why quotas have brought women into power but not changed other features of politics and why empowerment has produced new hierarchies within the indigenous movement.

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