For more than one year, the groundbreaking #MeToo movement and related Time’s Up initiative have broken taboos and sparked an unprecedented global conversation about the sexism, harassment and violence many women face in professional environments.
Women politicians have also been saying #MeToo in politics. With women comprising just 5.2 per cent of Heads of Government, 6.6 per cent of Heads of State, and 24 per cent of parliamentarians globally, politics is overwhelmingly male-dominated. But as in workplaces in other sectors, women are increasingly present in parliaments and elected assemblies, government bodies and political parties. As women continue to defy gender norms that have traditionally kept them out of politics, they encounter hostility and violence in these institutions.
Violence against women in politics can be physical, sexual or psychological in nature. Both men and women can be affected by violence in politics, but violence against women in politics is gender-based. It targets women because of their gender and the acts of violence are gendered in form, such as sexist remarks or sexual harassment and violence. Violence against women in politics is a violation of human rights, and by hindering women’s political participation, it is also a violation of women’s political rights.
An Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU) global study published in 2016, and a 2018 study focused on European countries, found that violence against women in politics is widespread. Both studies revealed that more than 80 per cent of surveyed women Members of Parliament (MPs) had experienced acts of psychological violence, which included, inter alia, threats of death, rape, beatings or abduction during their parliamentary terms. The studies also revealed that acts of psychological violence against women MPs are especially profuse online and on social media. Sexist and misogynistic remarks, humiliating images, mobbing, intimidation and threats against women in public life or women who express political opinions publicly have become commonplace. Young women MPs and those women active in the fight against gender inequality and violence against women were often singled out for attack.
The studies also showed that a quarter of the women parliamentarians interviewed were the target of sexual harassment perpetrated by male parliamentarian colleagues, both from their own political party and from parties opposed to their own.
Objective of the e-Discussion
The global fight to promote women’s equal participation in decision-making and to end all forms of violence against women is receiving unprecedented attention as more women in politics speak out through the #MeToo movement. Likewise, the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals have put a global spotlight on the commitments of all countries to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls (SDG Target 5.2) and ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life (SDG Target 5.5). iKNOW Politics and its partners will launch this e-Discussion alongside the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. Contributions in Arabic, English, French and Spanish are welcome from 26 November to 21 December 2018. The e-Discussion seeks to raise awareness on the issue of gender-based violence against women in politics and expand the dialogue on how to make political spaces safer and more inclusive for women.
- What is causing violence against women in politics to occur so widely across the world?
- IPU reports that about half of the women MPs subjected to acts of violence do not report them to the parliamentary security service and/or the police. Reporting rates for acts of sexual harassment are even much lower. Why do you think that is? What needs to change to ensure all incidents are reported?
- Social media is a top place in which psychological violence (e.g. sexist and misogynistic remarks, humiliating images, mobbing, intimidation and threats) is perpetrated against women in politics. How do you explain this? How can we make sure social media is a safe space for them?
- Violence against women in politics makes the work of women politicians difficult and potentially dangerous and therefore unattractive as a career option. What message would you give to women who are discouraged from engaging in political life because of the fear or threat of violence?
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 Situation as of 1 November 2018. Data compiled by UN Women based on information provided by Permanent Missions to the United Nations.
 Situation as of 1 October 2018. Women in National Parliaments World Average, IPU: archive.ipu.org/wmn-e/world.htm (accessed on 6 November 2018).
 IPU, “Sexism, harassment and violence against women in parliaments in Europe”, Issues Brief. October 2018.
 United Nations, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on violence against women in politics”, para 11. August 2018. See also UN Women, “Violence against women in politics: Expert Group Meeting report and recommendations”, 2018, and NDI, Not The Cost: Stopping Violence Against Women in Politics, 2016.