Top UN officials on Tuesday gathered with government and civil society representatives to draw attention to the scourge of violence against women worldwide who are involved in politics, which is increasingly seeing women parliamentarians, human rights defenders and electoral observers silenced, and intimidated.
“As a former Parliamentarian, and a lifelong politician, violence against women in politics is an issue near to my heart. It is a moral and ethical failure on us as a society,” said the President of the General Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, whose office organized the event on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women.
Alienating women from political processes undermines democratic processes at large
Low numbers of women in politics can negatively impact political institutions’ commitment to women’s issues & gender equality
Remarks @ the Special Event on ending #VAWPhttps://t.co/ob6F7QGem7 pic.twitter.com/RpCJ7wGxWL
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) March 15, 2022
The event brought together Vice-Presidents, Government Ministers and senior officials from more than 20 UN Member States – some of whom spoke from personal experience about the barriers to running for office as a woman candidate.
‘Robbed’ of agency
Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said that violence against women in politics is a violation of human rights that aims to undermine governance.
“The aim of some groups is silencing women and robbing them of agency,” she said via video message.
The UN deputy chief noted that concrete action is needed to address violence against women and girls. Proposals for such national plans are part of the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report, which was the recent focus of five thematic consultations at the General Assembly.
Violence against women active in political life is a form of gender-based violence that manifests physically, psychologically and sexually, both in-person and online.
Forced from ‘public space’
The head of UN Women, Sima Sami Bahous, said that “violence silences women, renders them invisible, pushes them from public space.” This in turn directly hinders progress on the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which aims to lift people out of poverty and create a more equal, sustainable world.
Ms. Bahous pointed to hate speech as one of the drivers used to discredit women in the public sphere, and noted that such violence is particularly difficult on young women, who may respond by simply shunning political activism altogether.
“Only when women are safe from violence and there is accountability, only then, can we make progress.”
Women today occupy 26.1 percent of parliamentary seats globally, compared to 13.1 per cent in 2000, according to the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU).
The share of women parliamentary speakers, in charge of managing day to day business in legislatures, has also increased from 8.3 percent in 2005 to 24.7 percent in 2021.
Only when women are safe from violence and there is accountability, only then, can we make progress – UN Women chief
However, as participation of women in politics has increased, so has the violence against them. Data shows that this is due to more women speaking out about the scourge, but also as a result of insufficient countermeasures to address violence.
Those countermeasures could include achieving gender parity, increased public awareness campaigns and holding perpetrators accountable, said the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Reem Alsalem.
The Special Rapporteur also discussed the need to collect data as a tool to asses the level of gender-based violence against women and girls.
The event was moderated by Ambassador Besiana Kadare, Permanent Representative of Albania to UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO. Also participating was Ambassador Darja Bavdaz Kuret of Slovenia, who is the Special Advisor on Gender in the Office of the President of the General Assembly.