Violence Against Women in Politics



Violence Against Women in Politics

Recently, elected women from France, Canada, Scotland and Israel, to name a few examples, publicly condemned misogynist and violent political cultures. Not only did they expose acts of harassment and violence in politics, they made the case that violence should not be the price of participating in politics. Violence against women in politics (VAWP) limits women’s political opportunities and discourages or prevents them from exercising their political rights, including their rights as voters, candidates, party supporters or public officials.

VAWP can occur during electoral campaigns, but not only: as women assume various political positions, they may, for example, be pressured to resign from their posts on the basis of gender, or verbally threatened  or intimidated because they are women in politics; and VAWP may take many other forms, including in sexist stereotypes and images portrayed in the media, which, particularly in the digital age, focus on women’s bodies, sexuality and traditional social roles, rather than their competence, capacity and contributions as leaders. 

Please click here to read the full concept note of this e-Discussion.

Click here to access the consolidated reply.  

This e-Discussion seeks to bring the experiences of the iKNOW Politics community into this growing dialogue on VAWP. Please join us in the e-Discussion from 22 August to 16 October 2016.


  1. What is violence against women in politics, and what forms does it take? What are its key drivers? Is VAWP particular to specific countries, regions, cultures, or institutions?
  2. Who are the perpetrators of VAWP, and what are their motives? 
  3. What are the consequences of VAWP on women, society and democracy?
  4. Are there any successful mechanisms/instruments to expose acts of VAWP (e.g. reporting, services for victims, rules of conduct)?
  5. Who has responsibility to address VAWP, and what types of partnerships are necessary to do so successfully?
  6. Can you identify any specific legislation, programs, trainings, studies, and awareness-raising campaigns, which help prevent punish and sanction political violence against women? 

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sofiaglzcuesta's picture

It is true that violence against women in politics is happening all over the world directly and indirectly by everyone. Children have been taught throughout history to see only men in power, so when a woman is involved they don’t understand it. When change occurs in a society, they tend to criticize it. In this case we are talking about politics and the violence against women in this environment. Society is not used to see women in power. It is not only violence from men to women in politics; children, poor, rich and other women also contribute in this violence.

For example; Mexico is currently one of the countries in the world with more women in the Supreme Court. The initiative to put 50% women in the Mexican Supreme Court was started by a lawyer-politician-teacher that in the first day of class in university makes a joke that women were put in the Supreme Court because they smell good and look pretty. The worst part is when everyone in the university classroom starts laughing including women. How can we expect the middle and low Mexican society class to accept and respect women in politics if the currently politicians take it as a joke? During the last presidential elections in Mexico our currently president Enrique Peña Nieto won the elections against a potential women candidate. Now we currently have one of the most corrupt presidents in the history of Mexico.

Change needs to happen from everyone in every social class to accept that women are needed in politics and they are much more than sexual icons.

I am a woman. I know about politics and I will not accept by any circumstances be taken just by a pretty face.

Anonymous's picture


Globally, violence against women has been identified as theworst  form of discrimination being metedout on women, and is actually an assault on the quest for  equality. Moreover, it is an overt denial ofthe fundamental rights to women and, as such, it is a matter that must prickboth men and women. It can be defined as a harmful act that is perpetrated againstone person’s will and that is based on socially ascribed (gender)differencesbetween males and females within the context if politics. During the Fourth World Conference, the BeijingPlan of Action was adopted. It is at this time that, for the first time,violence against women was identifies as an impediment to the amelioration of womenthat required serious attention.

It is worth noting that in September 1997, The Universal Declarationon Democracy was adopted by the Inter Parliamentary Union. The core mantra ofthe declaration was to assert the fact that democracy has to envisage and facilitatea genuine partnership among men and women that takes into account their differences,and is enriched by them, and in which both players could work as equal partnersand complement each other. In this regard, gender partnership formed the thrustof this declaration.


VAWP may take various forms depending on the setting of aparticular area- culture, customs, traditions, and laws. In its ugliest form,it can manifest itself in killings. In its subtle forms, it may reveal itselfin form of sexist remarks. It can also be in form of verbal abuse, sexualharassment, rape and even threats of reprisal.


 The key drivers ofVAWP can be summarized as such; globally, there are legislations, cultures, traditionsand customs which fly in the face of the dignity interest and welfare of women,and as such, they inhibit the capacity of women to ascend political office .Asa result of the prior mentioned drivers, there is a tendency towards gender stereotypingin politics, which in often cases may have deleterious outcomes on women. Theaim of violence against women in politics (VAWP) is to discourage womenpolitical participation and , thus, deny half of the global population theirpolitical and civil rights.


The perpetrators of VAWP need not be their political opponents;they may actually be family members, friends, political parties religiousleaders, community, state security apparatus, among others. The media mayexacerbate the situation by perpetuating the violence. The violence meted outon women may be economic, psychological, sexual, and physical

Consequences to Society

It is imperative to understand that women constitute more thanhalf of the world population. Anecdotal evidence points to the fact that theparticipation of women in politics results in real political gains for the society.Hence, excluding women in politics greatly undermines political processes.Thiswill therefore mean that the electoral process is called into question, and therights of the people to be represented as they wish is denied.

Consequences to Women

To women, VAWP contravenes the Universal Declarationof Human Rights and  the United Nations’Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women(CEDAW).The latter convention’s Article 7, clearly identifies that countriesshould ensure that women have the right to

·        vote in elections and be eligible forelection to all publicly elected bodies

·        participate in the formulation ofgovernment policy and to hold public office and perform all public functions atall Taking action to promote an inclusive democracy

·        participate in non-governmentalorganizations and associations concerned with the public and political life ofthe country

Hence, denying women these opportunities as a resultof VAWP will be alienating them from the rights highlighted.


·  Establishment of interest groups among women to address issues od VAWP

·  Pro bono advice to women on human rights

·  Data collection and analysis on VAWP and analysis

·  Lobbying to have legislations enacted to protect women

·  Lobbying to have the media provide balanced reporting on women in politics and any acts of VAWP meted on them

·  Providing success stories on women who have conquered VAWP


Addressing VAWP should be the responsibility ofevery citizen in the country. VAWP is a negation of the gains made in the questto enhance gender equality. Hence, every citizen has a role to play. However,the government, through its three arms-legislature, executive, and thejudiciary all have a superseding role. These will ensure that legislation is inplace to address the issue, finances and implementation of the legislation iseffected, and that enforcement is equally effected respectively. However, thisis not to imply that the civil society and the media are to be spectators .Theyplay a pivotal role in relaying incidents of the cases as well as sensitization.


Kenya has ratified the International Covenant onEconomic Social and Cultural Rights

roxannesanjose's picture

1. Violence against women in Politics and what forms does it take?

Violence against women in politics in denying them access to run and shaire their voice in social issues. The form does it take? Stereotypes. They belittle women. The Drivers are women who are interested and participated in politics. Yes, VAWP particular in specific countries, regions, cultures, or institutions such as "India, Nepal, Pakistan and analyses incidents of violence that occurred from 2003 to 2013". "The study also finds that more than 60 percent of women does not participate in politics due to fear of violence"


2. Perperator of VAWP are those stereotypes and their motives is to probably discourages women and questions them.


3. Consequences of VAWP on women, society, and democracy are policies are being created from different countries. For example, in Spain, "Women's participation in decision making and within parliament accounts for more than 30 percent, which has resulted not only in a comprehensive legislative approach to violence against women". They "created a sub-committee of the Equality of Committee charged with monitoring the enforcement of 2004 Organic Act on Integrated Protection measures against Gender Violence". 


4. The successful mechanisms/instruments to expose acts of VAWP were in Pakistan, "introduction of hotline services to provide access to medical, legal and security assistance in one phone call". In Sweden, "The Network also organizes meetings with police officers, lawyers, judges, the Military, sports, coaches, schools, and trade unions to discuss values, attitudes and the need for change".


5. The responsible to address VAWP are the leaders. Types of partnerships are partyminds and NGOs.


6. In Rwanda, on gender-senstive laws, "Introduction in 2006 of a landmark to combat gender based violence, which marked the First Time the definition of Rape in Rwandan law". In Spain, "women's participation, decision making and within parliaments accounts more than 30 percent". "18.6 percent of seats in Parliaments are represented by women - a 60 percent increase since 1995".



admin's picture

Being a political woman believing in the pormotion of women"s political rights, I find it obligatory to participate in this e-discussion. In my research, I consulted many articles and took from them some points that really depict the Moroccan situation.

What is violence against women in politics?

Violence against woman in politics can be defined in different way. The mere the situation is deprive woman from their right to vote since politics has been  promoted as the territory of men. It can also manifested in the restriction of the women’s mobility and capacity to participate in the political sphere.  Many academic definitions have been given to violence against women in politics. Among the agreed upon definition of political violence is the one advocates by the group of  women parliamentarians. It is any “physical, psychological or sexual actions, conduct and aggression committed by one person  or a group of persons , directly or through third parties  against women who are candidates, elected designated or exercising g public  or political role against their families  to reduce suspend prevent or restrict the exercise of their position or to induce or oblige them to carry out, or against their will an act or omission in the performance or their functions in the exercise  of their rights”

What forms does it take?

Political violence  can take many forms. Among them are

  • The inability of women to use their constitutional role  to participate in politics as voters, activists or simply engaged citizens.
  • Most of elected  female representatives have  a limited or a marginal role in important discussion within their political parties or within their national decisions making processes.
  • Winning less political seats in comparison to men.
  • Political isolation as they remain side lined in their political parties.
  • In some cases, women are under pressure or force directly or indirectly to resign from  elected office,
  • Politically motivated abuse of  authority over women professionals in public offices that make the form of threatening the security of the families of women political leaders.

What are its keys drivers?

  • Understanding social norm change,  there are many social feminist movement  struggling for  women’s  right.
  • Understanding gender norms with specific focus on the processes by means of which
  • Discriminatory gender norms are maintained in the civil society. In the case of Morocco with the new constitution of  2011 and its article 19 , the latter stipulates the principle of equality of men and women and the obligation of the representation of women in all the places of responsibility.
  • Economic change and the participation of a large number of women into labour  market.
  • Education of women. There is a great relationship between women’s education  and social norm change. Education has a positive impact on women’s decision making power and their increased mobility and freedom of movement for women.
  • Communication via social networks by keeping in touch, having access to information, building  networks skills, having access to future economic opportunities, building self esteem and participating in civil affairs.

What are the perpetrators of VAWP?

The perpetrators are the following:

  • Prevalence and dominance of political dynasties. There are some family names that protect their economic affairs through politics.
  • Bad understanding or religion. Women’s place is at home and the political  world is a corrupted one where there is no place for women but things are changing these days.
  • Ignorance is double edge. The woman herself portrays the political world in a narrow space to the extent that if she enters in it she will lose her feminity.
  • Cultural heritage meaning social attitudes towards woman’s participation in politics.
  • Social status.
  • The woman wing sometimes is counter-productive for political promotion.

What are the consequences VAWP?

This  question cannot be answered simply since there is not any NGOs that represents VAWP. This thematic issue had been tackled in different occasions in seminars and in round tables. Feminist associations were struggling for the official legislation of rules of violence against women. Finally, the Moroccan parliament had promoted the rules last July.

In conclusion, the case of Morocco is quite different since the parliaments legislation and justice committee  has just adopted the law for the establishment of the commission of for equity and combating all forms of discrimination. Therefore, any answers to the other three questions will not be sufficient to portrays the Moroccan situation. Yet, it would be fair to say that the 2011 constitution contains articles 19,164,171 and 22which all guarantee protection of women’s rights and call for laws and public policies that will institutionalise and consolidate woman’s protection.


Written by Khadija El Atri    

mbalogistics's picture

as a diploma logistics courses student, my opinion against Violence against women in politics is rampant in South Asia according to a new study conducted by the Centre for Social Research and UN Women. The study, revealed that the insufficient implementation of laws, lack of support from police and judiciary, the socio-economic divide and current power structures are the major reasons for violence.

The study was conducted in India, Nepal and Pakistan and analyses incidents of violence that occurred from 2003 to 2013. It was conducted to address the nature, extent and reasons for violence that inhibits women’s political participation. Approximately 800 respondents were interviewed including election commission officials, police, contestants, and families in urban and rural areas.

The study finds that while the percentage of female voters and women candidates fielded by political parties has increased in all three countries, the percentage of female representatives in national bodies has decreased. The study also finds that more than 60 per cent of women do not participate in politics due to fear of violence.

“Almost 90 per cent of women in these countries feel that violence breaks their resolve to join politics. From our comprehensive review of laws on violence against women, it is clear that none of the three countries has legislation that deals strictly with offenders to prevent violence against women in politics. We know that where laws are in place, prevalence tends to be lower and fewer people think that violence against women in justifiable,” says Rebecca Reichmann Tavares, Representative, UN Women’s Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Except for a few chosen female politicians, most of the elected female representatives have a limited or marginal role in important discussions within their political party. Ranjana Kumari, Director, CSR said “South Asia is home to one-fifth of the worlds’ population and one-third of South Asian women experience violence throughout their lives, which is also a common feature of South Asian politics. Candidates, their families as well as voters have routinely faced violence during elections. The violent nature of politics within South Asia often deters women from participating within the political sphere.”

johnhonay93's picture

As a staff of Kerala taxi services ,violence against women is a worldwide yet still hidden problem. Freedom from the threat of harassment, battering, and sexual assault is a concept that most of us have a hard time imagining because violence is such a deep part of our cultures and our lives. Consider these facts:



  • Battering is the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 44 in the U.S.1

  • The FBI, which gathers data from law enforcement officials, indicated that 102,555 women were victims of rape in 1990.2

  • In contrast to the FBI data, the Rape in America study estimates that 683,000 women are raped every year.3

  • Approximately 50% of the homeless women and children in this country are on the streets because of violence in their homes.4

  • One-fifth to one-half of U.S. women were sexually abused as children at least once, most of them by an older male relative.5

  • Nearly two-thirds of women who receive public assistance ("welfare") have been abused by an intimate partner at some time in their adult lives. 6

ritachahwan's picture

Middle East is the best Example to Expose the violence Against women in politics and political life. lets begin in presenting the Word politics and what are the platform of politics,

Politics can refer to : Parliaments same as civil society also parties. in Lebanon , where their is more freedom, than other countries it is taking different form from , Intimidation while letting her feel as if she is doing another duty than the traditional one which is : being a mother and a good wife.
from the Result of IT we can identify what is violence it means : Shut up and dont think. the extreme cases in Leb are the case of May chidiac and other victims whom were threatened to death and maybe they had the chance like May to live after being exposed to a booming.

many difficulties facing the lady in lebanon. then middle east . its sometimes would be through not answering a Question In a conference to let her feel that her voice and word doesnt count any .
the key drivers began from the Power system whom ruled from different types of men ,whom are trying to prove their power even sometimes you would find a man whom helping a lady to reduce another one power. so will not be considered as competitor anymore in political and social life if referring to civil society.   VAwP is what reduce democracy and decrease the traditional life style. so one decrease the capacity of civil society same as the evolution of it . 
their is no success for any tool to fight the Vawp since in lebanon for example whom campaign against the lay are ladies sometimes because they are searching for funds so they do so through by creating a model and in lebanon most of the time is the traditional one.
Reporting is a very important tool but the most important is Activism and not letting anybody let her feel and underestimate herself . through reporting you begin to build the study needed for legislation then lobbying.

admin's picture

1.What is violence against women in politics, and what forms does it take? What are its key drivers? Is VAWP particular to specific countries, regions, cultures, or institutions?
VAWP is gender based violence that would target women in an attempt to hinder their active participation in politics. It can take various forms: a. VAW in the public sphere:  such as street sexual harassment to women while and on the way to voting venues, harassment to women candidates and women active in political campaigns and belittling women politicians in Parliament because of their gender. b. VAW in the private sphere: such as domestic violence that would hinder women's physical, psychological and mental capacities to engage in politics.
Unfortunately, VAWP is wide spread across the globe. However, its manifestation is coloured by the specificities of each country, region, culture and institution.
2.Who are the perpetrators of VAWP, and what are their motives?
Perpetrators of VAWP varies between state and non-state actors. The main motives are to exclude women from practicing their citizenship rights and creating a negative atmosphere that would discourage women from engaging with politics.
3. What are the consequences of VAWP on women, society and democracy?
The consequences are limited participation of women ( in numbers as well as scale) in politics. As a result, women's issues would be rarely addressed within political institutions such as unions, parties and legislative bodies.
4. Are there any successful mechanisms/instruments to expose acts of VAWP (e.g. reporting, services for victims, rules of conduct)?
Among the successful mechanisms would be appropriate interventions to ensure the physical safety of women in politics ( such as proper lighting in voting venues), production and dissemination of qualitative and quantitative knowledge on VAWP, and drafting codes of conduct that would be used in pinpointing individuals and institutions that perform and tolerate VAWP. These mechanisms have to be developed and implemented in parallel with a wider legal reform to address VAW.
5. Who has responsibility to address VAWP, and what types of partnerships are necessary to do so successfully?
The responsibility is on the shoulders of the state ( with its different bodies), the civil society, political institutions (such as parties, unions and student clubs), the women's human rights groups, the feminist movements, women's national machineries and academics. In addition, international actors ( international NGOs and donors) have a role in mobilizing resources and support to those working on the ground to address VAWP.
6. Can you identify any specific legislation, programs, trainings, studies, and awareness-raising campaigns, which help prevent punish and sanction political violence against women? 
An example would be the Egyptian civil society 's efforts to address VAWP by supporting women in politics such as Nazra's work on the ground. Another example is the Women and Memory Forum's Oral History Archive that document and disseminate women's experiences in the public sphere. Such an archive provides data and insights on the VAWP women face and its implications on their future contribution to politics in Egypt This Archive highlights the successes and challenges facing women in history as well as in contemporary Egypt.
Claire DeSoi's picture

1. We see that  violence against women in politics (VAW-P) is a distinct phenomenon with three distinct characteristics: it targets women because of their gender; in its very form it can be gendered, as exemplified by sexist threats and sexual violence; and its impact is to discourage women in particular from being or becoming politically active. It is not particular to specific countries, regions, cultures, or institutions: women in politics around the world report the same range of experiences, but the nature, intensity and impact of the violence they encounter differs depending on the political and socio-cultural contexts in which they are politically engaged.

2. Unlike other forms of violence electoral/political violence, usually carried out by political opponents, we see that perpetrators of VAW-P may include a woman's family or friends, members of her political party, community and religious leaders, state security forces and the police, among others. Media outlets can also play an influential role in perpetrating violence -- either through their own reports, or through disseminating violent messages about politically active women from other sources.

3. VAW-P poses a direct threat to women’s ability to participate freely and without fear, and intimidates or prevents women from participating in public and political life. Often, attacks on women who are public figures or political leaders can discourage women -- especially young women -- from becoming involved in politics at all.  

4. Mechanisms and strategies to expose and document VAW-P are being developed around the world. Several regional institutions have already taken action to call violence against women in politics to light and condemn it. Political parties can also take action against VAW-P, including signing codes of conduct or implementing internal mechanisms. In Sierra Leone, for example, eight parties signed an “open and safe” election pledge that opposed all forms of violence and intimidation against women.

5. Everyone has the responsibility to address VAW-P! This includes government institutions, parliaments, elected and appointed leaders, justice and security sectors, electoral observers and authorities, and regional institutions.

The problem of VAW-P must be exposed in all its forms, and acknowledged globally. We all have opportunities to take action to mitigate and prevent it, to record and count it when it does occur, and to increase accountability for perpetrators.

For more information about the issue of VAW-P and opportunities for action that different stakeholders and sectors can take to address and end it, we encourage you to take a look at NDI's Call to Action to Stop Violence Against Women In Politics -- you can find the document and more information here:

jessykh's picture

Violence against women in politics may take many forms, it is present in societies regardless of the open minded and closed ones, it may take many forms , verbal, physical , strategical or even direct.I do believe that the main reason for vwap the fear from success , where in a men society , they tend to feel intimidated even inferior to a woman, if she proved able to take responsability in public affairs.To solve that many NGO 's are raising awareness about the importance of the presence of women in politics first of all to respect democracy  In Lebanon we have women in front and Kafa who are raising awareness about the political role of women and the violence in all its types against them and helping them to be confident that they are allowed and can build a better future.

admin's picture

Catherine Watuka is a women's rights activist in Kenya. She is the Founder and Executive Director of Women United for Social, Economic and Total Empowerment. 

The terrible reality is that women continue to experience violence in their lives, moreso on women who step forward to participate in politics. They are met by harassment, psychological abuse, character assasination (both on and off-line) and physical or sexual assault. It is a pervasive but often overlooked barrier that prevents women across the world from having their voices heard. It is a direct threat to women’s ability to participate in all phases of elections as voters, candidates, officials, administrators or observers. The cycle of violence is perpetuated by gender discrimination and current power structure.
When women speak up they risk appearing to be a liability, rather than an asset to party leaders. Even worse, they can be subjected to further harassment and discrimination. These attacks dampen the political aspirations of other women and girls. We cannot allow violence to be the cost for women who are simply exercising their fundamental human and political rights. Legislation against these acts is an important step, though not a silver bullet. We must advocate for their effective&consistent enforcement and we need to bring other strategies to bear like a global call to action to end the scourge now that activists more leaders are beginning to understand the scale of the problem.