Election Universe

Women’s Day: Preventing violence against women in politics

Women’s Day: Preventing violence against women in politics
March 05 2019, 13:59

“We recognize that women in various parts of the world are at different stages of participation in the life of their community, that some of them are prevented by law from assuming full rights of citizenship, and that they, therefore, may see their immediate problems somewhat differently.” With this “Open letter to the women of the world,” Eleanor Roosevelt highlighted the significance of women’s rights in the inaugural session of the UN General Assembly in 1946.

Female participation in politics and elections have come a long way since then. However, the substantial gender gap in political representation is still a pivotal driver to promote equality. According to UN Woman 2019 data:

  • As of January 2019, only 11 women are serving as Head of State, and ten are serving as Head of Government.
  • Only 24% of all national parliamentarians were women as of November 2018
  • Globally, there are 29 States in which women account for less than 10% of parliamentarians, including 4 chambers with no women at all.
  • As of November 2018, 49 single or lower houses were composed of 30 percent or more women. More than half of these countries have applied some form of quotas.

International Women’s Day

March 8 represents a new opportunity to analyze how can we protect women and prevent violence against them in politics.

According to iKNOW Politics, a joint project of International IDEA, the Inter-parliamentary Union, UNDP, and UN Women; “women’s political participation in electoral processes require targeted support to overcome gender discrimination.” Some of the strategies the project recommends for boosting gender balance in electoral processes, while helping the prevention of violence, include:

  • working with political parties to promote gender-sensitive policies and practices
  • targeted outreach and support for women to register to vote and safely access polling stations
  • guarantee of protection from election-related violence and harassment
  • use of quotas and temporary special measures to increase women’s representation
  • effective technical and financial support to women candidates and political leaders
  • engagement of male champions for women’s empowerment and gender equality

Furthermore, a recent NDI research concludes that “women party members are more likely than men to be victims of violence, to witness violence against others in their party, and to perceive a climate of violence within the party itself.” The study shows that more than half of women surveyed (54.7 percent) report having experienced at least one form of violence, with the largest share suffering from psychological violence (48.4 percent). “This violence has a discouraging impact on women’s political leadership ambitions. Violence against politically-active women impacts women’s status and their ability, confidence, and desire to participate in parties and politics.”

Mitigate violence against women in elections

The guide Preventing violence against women in elections (VAWE), jointly produced by UN Women and UNDP, acknowledges this problem as a global barrier to gender equality. It is intended for “those best positioned to prevent and mitigate violence against women in elections, including national electoral stakeholders, international organizations, and those providing programming support on electoral assistance, women’s political participation, and human rights.”

Here it is a summary of actions that can be taken to mitigate VAWE across the electoral cycle, according to the guide:

  • Awareness raising campaigns to prevent violence against women in elections
  • Adapt training programs and civic outreach materials to introduce VAWE
  • Capacity building for media, and commitment to reporting on VAWE in the press
  • Engage with legislators and parliamentary networks
  • Engage with men as allies and influential advocates

The journey to political participation is fraught with rising violence and intimidation against women in politics. However, now it is the best time to take action and engage election stakeholders to protect and empower female in politics.