Despite progress in gender representation in legislative bodies, women’s track record in the executive branches of government – ​​such as heads of state or government – ​​remains low.
  • by Thalif Deen (United Nations)
  • Interpress service
  • This feature is part of a series to mark International Women’s Day on March 8.

According to the latest IPU report, Women in Parliament 2022women’s participation in parliament has never been as diverse and representative as it is in many countries today.

The results are based on the 47 countries that held elections in 2022. In these elections, women took an average of 25.8% of seats for election or appointment. This is an increase of 2.3 percentage points compared to previous renewals in these chambers.

Brazil saw a record 4,829 women who identify as black run for office (out of 26,778 candidates); in the United States, a record number of women of color (263) ran in midterm elections; LGBTQI+ representation in Colombia tripled from two to six members of Congress; and in France, 32 candidates from minority backgrounds were elected to the new National Assembly, a record 5.8% of the total.

The report said that statutory quotas were again a decisive factor in the increase in women’s representation.

Thomas Fitzsimons, the IPU’s Director of Communications told IPS that there are many factors that explain the success of the countries that have made progress.

For example, he pointed out, technological and operational transformations, largely due to the covid-19 pandemic, have increased the potential for parliaments to become more gender-sensitive and family-friendly.

“The influence of gender issues on election results, with increased awareness of discrimination and gender-based violence, as well as alliances with other social movements, also helped drive strong results for women in some of the parliamentary elections,” he noted.

“But if we had to choose a primary factor, it would be statutory quotas. Statutory quotas enshrined in the constitution and/or electoral laws require a minimum number of candidates to be women (or of the underrepresented sex),” he said.

Chambers with statutory quotas or in combination with voluntary party quotas produced a significantly higher proportion of women than those without in the 2022 election (30.9% vs. 21.2%).

“As for the future, we need to accelerate the momentum which is still too slow. At the current rate of growth, it will take another 80 years before we reach parity,” explained Fitzsimons.

Antonia Kirkland Global Lead — Legal Equality and Access to Equality Now, told IPS that it is encouraging to see the IPU’s data which reveals that more women than ever are in political decision-making roles globally, and there has been a general increase in the number of women in both government and Riksdag positions.

The IPU’s data clearly show that quotas on women’s representation have had a positive, large impact. Countries that apply quotas have had a 9.7 percent increase in women in parliaments compared to countries without, she said.

“However, it is regrettable that women are still so under-represented at all levels of political decision-making, accounting for only 9.8% of heads of government and just over a quarter of MPs. It is also deeply worrying that gender equality in parliaments is at least 80 years away if we continue at the current rate.”

With the World Bank just finding it 14 countries have full legal equality between women and men, and UN Women will demand another 286 years To eliminate gaps in legal protections, duty-bearers must create a safe and empowering environment for women to engage in policies that promote greater legal equality, Kirkland said.

She said more needs to be done to increase women’s political representation by understanding and removing barriers that hinder women’s participation in the public sphere and decision-making.

“To accelerate gender equality in parliaments, we need an end to sexist laws in all areas of life that prevent women from engaging in politics in the first place.”

Political parties should highlight the importance and benefits of gender diversity and implement initiatives that involve women in politics at all stages and in all branches of the political arena.

The IPU’s report, she pointed out, shows that a shocking proportion of women in parliament face gender-based violence and sexual harassment in their own parliaments, on the street and in the digital world. Concerted efforts are needed to address gender-based violence and abuse against women politicians both online and offline.

Governments, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society must take advantage of all opportunities – such as The UN’s upcoming Global Digital Compact – working together to protect women from online abuse. Perpetrators and those who facilitate or provide platforms for such abuse must be held accountable.

“Tackling this problem would result in less self-censorship by parliamentarians, greater interest by girls and young women in government, and ultimately stronger democracies that are both more peaceful and equals, Kirkland explained.

At the regional level, according to the report, six countries now have gender parity (or a greater proportion of women than men) in their lower or single houses as of January 1, 2023. New Zealand joined last year’s club of five consisting of Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the top of the IPU’s authoritative global the ranking of women in parliament.

Other notable gains in women’s representation were noted in Australia (strongest performance of the year with a record 56.6% of seats won by women in the Senate), Colombia, Equatorial Guinea, Malta and Slovenia.

Supreme elections in Angola, Kenya and Senegal all saw positive progress for women. Wide gaps marked the results in Asia: a record number of women were elected to the historically male-dominated Senate in Japan, but in India, elections to the upper house saw women occupy only 15.1% of seats, well below global and regional averages.

The Pacific region saw the highest rate of growth in female representation of any region, increasing by 1.7 percentage points to reach an overall average of 22.6% women in parliament. Every Pacific parliament now has at least one female legislator.

In the 15 European chambers renewed in 2022, there was little change in women’s representation, stagnating at 31%.

In the Middle East and North Africa, seven chambers were renewed in 2022. On average, women were elected to 16.3% of the seats in these chambers, the lowest regional proportion in the world for elections held during the year. Three countries were below 10%: Algeria (upper house: 4.3%), Kuwait (6.3%) and Lebanon (6.3%).

Bahrain is an outlier in the region with a record eight women elected to the lower house, including many first-time lawmakers. 73 women stood in the lower house election (out of a total of 330 candidates) compared to the 41 women who stood in the last election in 2018. Ten women were also appointed to the 40-member upper house.

The IPU is the global organization of national parliaments. It was founded more than 133 years ago as the first multilateral political organization in the world, encouraging cooperation and dialogue among all nations. Today, the IPU consists of 178 national member parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments to become stronger, younger, equal and more representative. It also defends the human rights of parliamentarians through a special committee made up of parliamentarians from around the world.For more information about the IPU, contact Thomas Fitzsimons by email: (email protected) or (email protected) or phone: +41(0) 79 854 31 53

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service