The Associated Press ran a heartening story yesterday about the prominent role of women in Iraqi politics.  Under a U.S.-backed quota, Iraq’s parliament currently requires at least one quarter of lawmakers to be female.  This requirement has helped Iraqi women gain a foothold in Iraq’s legal and political systems.  

This alone is good news but two items from the story stood out as truly healthy signs for women in Iraq which show these female representatives to be confident and competent legislators who don’t just vote as one monolithic block but rather bring diversity of opinion to parliament (emphasis mine): 

But women have found that sheer numbers in parliament do not always translate into more power for women – especially when they so rarely agree with one another. And, because many people write off female candidates as simply being part of the quota, it doesn’t necessarily earn respect either. 

Regarding the ongoing need for these quotas, Iraqi parliament member Maha al-Douri says they should be phased out: 

“The quota was very important in the previous elections because we live in a male-dominated society and the quota was necessary to give women a chance to have a political role,” al-Douri told The Associated Press at the offices of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in the Shiite slum of Sadr City, where the prayers were held last week. 

But in the future this quota should be removed and women should compete equally with men, because women politicians have proven their competence and reliability in politics,” said al-Douri, who is running for a second term on the slate of al-Sadr’s party.