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Women in parliament: Slow progress towards equal representation

Progress on women’s representation in national legislatures was “slow and mixed” in 2023, registering a growth of 0.4 per cent over the preceding year, the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) reported on Tuesday.

The global proportion of women in the world’s voting chambers inched up to 26.9 per cent on the back of elections and appointments through the year, the international organization said in its latest report on Women in Parliament.

The growth was similar to the increase in 2022, but slower than the two years prior, IPU said. In both 2021 and 2020, the increase was 0.6 per cent.

Rwanda once again led the world ranking with women accounting for 61.3 per cent of seats in the Chamber of Deputies, followed by Cuba and Nicaragua with 55.7 per cent and 53.9 per cent, respectively.

Regionally, the Americas maintained its long-held position with the highest representation of women, at 35.1 per cent.

The IPU is an international organization distinct from the United Nations. Both organizations share common goals and objectives related to empowerment and more inclusive decision making, and work towards promoting dialogue and cooperation among nations.

IPU enjoys a special status at the UN, with a standing invitation to participate as an observer in the sessions and the work of the General Assembly.

Women quitting politics

The IPU report noted that several high-profile women leaders had left the political arena in 2023, many of whom cited burnout and increasing online harassment as the main reasons for leaving.

At the beginning of the year, Jacinda Ardern stepped down as Prime Minister of New Zealand and decided not to stand again for her parliamentary seat.

A few months later, Sanna Marin, the former Prime Minister of Finland who was voted out of power in the April election, also resigned as an MP and decided to quit politics. Several prominent Dutch women MPs also stepped down.

At the same time, the report also noted that some parliaments undertook measures to increase safety measures, such as the Althingi (national parliament) of Iceland which adopted a strategy and action plan against bullying and sexual and gender-based harassment.

Gender issues in polls

The IPU report also highlighted that gender issues frequently emerged high up the list of voter priorities during election cycles last year, notably women’s reproductive rights in countries where abortion remains a contentious issue.

In the Polish elections, for instance, the issue was central after a 2020 court ruling, supported by the government at the time, whose policies and legislation severely restricted access to abortion.

The ruling was followed by massive protests across the country, led by women and young people, with the IPU report suggesting that this was one factor which led the ruling party to lose power.

On the flip side, Javier Milei, who promised a referendum to repeal more progressive laws on abortion that had been put in place in 2020, was elected President of Argentina, amid reports that he received a boost in support from male voters, especially young men.

Source: UN News Centre

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