Taiwan’s female politicians forge path to equality

In skinny jeans and chilly pepper red sneakers matching her lipstick, Kao Chia-yu was greeted like a film celebrity by her constituents.

Shouts of “Congratulations!” echoed through the narrow streets, and fans chased her down for selfies and autographs. Instinctually darting between Putonghua and Taiwanese, Kao, 39, was on her last thank-the-voters victory lap on the Lunar New Year break.

On Saturday, the three-term local councillor will be sworn in as a legislator. Kao and other women legislators take up 42 percent of the seats in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, making it the most equitable in Asia.

Kao won in last month’s general election, in which the sitting – and first female – president Tsai Ing-wen scored a second term on a historical high vote of 57 percent.

Now boasting a twice-elected female president, and a female vice president as early as in 2000, Taiwan seems to have arrived as a democracy where women have as much a fair shot as men at any political office.

What has paved the way to ensuring this is a long history of gender quotas for most races, except single-seat contests such as presidential and mayoral races.

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