Women and the National Assembly in France : an analysis of institutional change and substantive representation, with special reference to the 1997-2002 legislature
This thesis explores institutional features of the Fifth Republic in France that affect women's representation, both in terms of their access to elected office and in terms of their ability to substantively represent women once elected. After identifying factors that were particularly favourable to women in the 1997 Parliament, it assesses the institutional reforms enacted from 1997-2002, which include not only the Constitutional Amendment and the Parity Law, but also limitations on the cumul des mandats, reform of the Senate, the creation of a statut de l'elu (defining elected officials' benefits and rights) and of the new parliamentary Women's Delegations. It attempts a holistic appraisal of the institutional reforms, and their effect on patterns of political recruitment. The second part analyses practices and power within the Palais-Bourbon to assess gender differences in access to parliamentary posts and tasks. It investigates the National Assembly as a 'gendered institution' and asks whether women are in a position to make a difference to the political process and legislative outcomes. It finds perceptible differences in women's and men's access to power, their committee work and use of parliamentary questions. The thesis concludes with a study of the Women's Delegation. After investigating the rationale and circumstances of its creation, the institutional status of the Delegation within the Assembly is analysed. Its contribution to legislation and its modus operandi in the 1997 Parliament, as well as its integration into the National Assembly are examined, in order to ascertain whether it has the potential to enhance women's substantive representation and to provide' safe space' for women Deputies.