International Women’s Day, 2023 – World Parliaments May Take Another 80 Years To Achieve Gender Equality Among Legislators


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

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

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

Brazil saw a record 4,829 women who identify as black run for election (out of 26,778 candidates); in the US, a record number of women of color (263) ran in the midterm elections; Colombia’s LGBTQI+ representation has tripled from two to six congressmen; and in France, 32 candidates from minority backgrounds were elected to the new National Assembly, a record high of 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, communications director of the IPU, tells IPS that there are many factors that explain the successes of the countries that have made progress.

For example, he pointed out that 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 outcomes, with increased awareness of discrimination and gender-based violence, as well as alliances with other social movements, also helped women achieve strong results in some parliamentary elections,” he noted.

“But if we had to choose one primary factor, it would be legal quotas. Legal quotas set in the constitution and/or electoral laws require a minimum number of candidates to be female (or of the under-represented gender),’ he said.

Chambers with statutory quotas or combined with voluntary party quotas yielded a significantly higher share of women than chambers without (30.9% versus 21.2%) in the 2022 election.

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

Antonia Kirkland Global Lead — Equality and access to justice. Speaking at Equality Now, IPS said it is encouraging to see data from the IPU show that more women than ever are in political decision-making roles worldwide, and that there is an overall increase in the number of women in government and parliamentary positions .

The IPU data clearly shows that quotas for women’s representation have had a positive, high impact. Countries applying quotas have seen a 9.7% increase in the number of women in parliaments compared to countries without it, she said.

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

With the World Bank finding that only 14 countries have full legal equality between women and men, and UN Women gagging that it will take another 286 years to close gaps in legal protections, duty bearers must create a safe and empowered environment for women to participate in politics that promotes greater legal equality, Kirkland said.

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

“To accelerate gender equality in parliaments, we must end sex-discriminatory laws in all areas of life that prevent women from participating in politics in the first place.”

Political parties should promote the importance and benefits of gender diversity and take initiatives to involve women in politics at all stages and in all branches of the political arena.

The IPU report, she pointed out, shows that a shocking percentage of women in parliament are victims of gender-based violence and sexual harassment in their own parliament, on the streets and in the digital world. Coordinated efforts are needed to tackle gender-based violence and abuse against female politicians both online and offline.

Governments, parliamentarians, the private sector and civil society should seize every opportunity – such as the forthcoming UN Global Digital Compact – to work together to protect women from online abuse. Perpetrators and those who facilitate or offer such abuse must be held accountable.

Addressing this issue would result in less self-censorship by parliamentarians, more interest from girls and young women in serving in government, and ultimately stronger democracies that are both more peaceful and gender-equal, Kirkland stated.

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

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

High-stakes elections in Angola, Kenya and Senegal all saw positive progress for women. Major differences marked the results in Asia: a record number of women were elected to Japan’s historically male-dominated senate, but in India, elections to the upper chamber resulted in women occupying only 15.1% of the seats, far below the global and regional averages.

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

In the 15 European chambers that were renewed in 2022, there was little shift in the representation of women, stagnating at 31%.

In the Middle East and North Africa region, seven rooms were renovated in 2022. On average, women were elected to 16.3% of seats in these chambers, the lowest regional percentage in the world for elections held that year. Three countries were below 10%: Algeria (upper chamber: 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 chamber, many of them new legislators. 73 women stood for election to the House of Representatives (out of a total of 330 candidates) compared to the 41 women who took part in the last elections in 2018. Ten women were also appointed to the 40-member Senate.

The IPU is the worldwide organization of national parliaments. It was founded more than 133 years ago as the world’s first multilateral political organization, encouraging cooperation and dialogue among all nations. Today, the IPU consists of 178 national parliaments and 14 regional parliamentary bodies. It promotes democracy and helps parliaments become stronger, younger, more gender-balanced 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 on the IPU, please contact Thomas Fitzsimons via 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

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