Political violence against women

Editorial / Opinion Piece / Blog Post

October 28, 2013

Political violence against women

Even though women have advanced in terms of the quality and quantity of their political participation in almost every country in the world, some of them are still experiencing gender based harassment and violence in politics. In countries that have incorporated the principles of alternation and parity in the drawing up of candidates’ lists for elections, with a man and a woman in the titular and substitute positions, many women are still victims of harassment and violence and are forced to renounce their positions, leaving men in the positions of power.

For that reason, several Latin American countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico are pushing legislation to prevent and punish all forms of persecution, harassment and violence against women. In Bolivia, the anti-gender-based harassment and violence in politics Act was widely approved by the House of Representatives and women expect it to be passed before the end of the parliamentary term. They want to have it as a tool to defend the rights of female candidates in the general elections next December and in the prefectural and municipal elections in April 2010.

The purpose of the anti-harassment and violence in politics Act is to protect, defend and guarantee the enjoyment of political rights by female candidates - incumbent and elected - and to guarantee a legal framework and set penalties for individual and collective harassment and political violence.

The provisions of the Act are applicable to all incumbent and elected candidates with a popular mandate to democratically represent their constituents at the national, departmental and municipal levels, who are prevented from or restricted in exercising their political rights.

Political harassment is defined as the act or series of acts of pressure, threats, harassment or persecution, committed by a person or group of persons directly or through a third party against a woman candidate - elected or incumbent - in the exercise of a public or political function. Furthermore, exerting pressure on the candidate’s family to prevent the candidate - by act or omission - from discharging her rights and duties is also covered by the Act.

The definition of political violence encompasses actions, conduct or assault causing bodily harm, psychological or sexual abuse against a woman or her family aimed at preventing her from or restricting her in exercising her duties or causing her to take decisions against her will, principles or the law.

The anti-harassment and violence in politics Act also provides that penalties can be more severe when these acts of discrimination are committed against a pregnant woman, if as a result of the events a miscarriage occurs, when the act of aggression is committed against a woman over sixty years of age and if the perpetrator is a repeat offender. A further factor to consider is if the abused woman is illiterate or has a low level of education and the perpetrator is the leader of a political party or civic groups, a public servant and if the acts of discrimination involve minors or family members of women politicians.

Furthermore, resignations tendered by elected women officials are valid only if the woman in question appears in person before the National Electoral Court. This is due to the fact that some women have been forced to sign their resignation under duress, thus resulting in a violation of their rights.

This innovative law is also based on the new State Constitution approved by the Bolivian people in February 2009, which sets out the principles of equal opportunity and gender equality. Similarly, the Act provides for the prevention and punishment of all acts of discrimination and violence of any kind against individuals, in particular against women. Regarding women’s political rights, Article 26 guarantees fair and equal participation for men and women. Article 147 guarantees the participation of men and women for the election of members to the National Legislative Assembly.

The composition of the Government of the Republic of Bolivia is based on a democratic, representative and participatory approach, with equal conditions for men and women in accordance with Article 11 of the Constitution.