More than one quarter of members of parliament in the world are now women - Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU)
New data showing that an unprecedented 25,5 per cent of parliamentarians in the world are women was announced today by the Geneva-based interparliamentary Union (IPU),ahead of the 8th March commemoration of International Women’s Day.
The figures refer to the year 2020, and are still far from representing “gender parity”.
“It gives me a great pleasure to announce that for the first-time women now account for more than a quarter of parliamentarians worldwide”, said IPU’s Secretary-General Martin Chungong today at the launch of the “Women in Parliament” report at the United Nations in Geneva. “The global average of women in parliament has now reached 25,5 per cent.”
The IPU, the global organization of national parliaments, has tracked women’s participation in parliament for decades, allowing it to measure progress and setbacks.
“While we celebrate and welcome this all-time high, we feel that progress is painstakingly, or even excruciatingly, slow”, Mr. Chungong said. “At the current rate, it will take another 50 years before we can achieve gender parity in parliament. And of course, we all agree that this is not tenable, it’s not acceptable”.
Following elections in 2020, the global proportion of women in parliament represents an increase of 0.6 points compared with 2019.
The ITU chief singled out three countries for having achieved gender parity in the parliamentary representation. “In only three parliaments do women account for 50 percent or more parliamentary seats. That is: Rwanda, Cuba and the United Arab Emirates”, said Mr. Chungong.
Referring to Rwanda as a role model for women’s participation in the government, ITU’s chief said that “we have seen evidence that where countries have come out of conflict and have had the opportunity to re-found the foundations of society, the legal framework of society, there is a greater chance of promoting gender equality, because this is something that has been articulated at the international level and it’s an opportunity for the society as a whole to sit down and say ‘this is what we want in the constitution’ ”.
ITU advocates for well-designed quotas as the key to progress as elections have shown in 2020. Electoral gender quotas were applied in 25 of the 57 countries that had parliamentary renewals in 2020. On average, parliaments with quotas elected 11,8 per cent more women to single and lower chambers and 7,4 per cent more women to upper chambers.
“Where women are involved in lawmaking on specific issues, the outcomes are better in terms of health care, in terms of the way even parliaments are functioning, making parliaments more gender sensitive”, said the ITU Secretary-General.
Though progress has been made in all regions of the world in 2020, once again the Americas were the top performers and outpaced their regions with women making up 32,4 per cent of Members of Parliament. In Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, the percentage is higher than average.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, Mali and Niger made significant gains in women’s representation, despite security challenges. They are testament to the fact that women’s role in transition processes is key to their political empowerment, according to the ITU.
The proportion of women in parliament is lowest in the Middle East and North Africa regions, with 17,8 per cent on average.
With the exception of New Zealand, the number of women MPs in the Pacific remained consistently low or entirely absent in 2020.
The IPU “Women in Parliament” report shows that the COVID-19 pandemic also influenced elections and campaigning in 2020.
“The COVID pandemic has had a negative impact on elections, in some countries those elections were postponed”, Mr. Chungong said. “In others, in some 50 countries where elections took place, we saw that women faced all manners of impediments as a result of the pandemic that exacerbated existing gender imbalances in politics”.
According to IPU, online violence against women has become even more widespread, and has posed a threat to women’s participation in public life.
However, the shift to remote, technology-driven parliamentary practices may have a potentially positive long-term impact for women in parliament, he said.